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Natural Resources & Energy

Wyoming and energy industry challenge Biden administration’s pause on oil and gas leases 

An oil well is seen east of Casper, Wyo., on  Feb. 26, 2021. The Biden administration is raising royalty rates that companies must pay for oil and natural gas extracted from federal lands.
Mead Gruver
/
AP
An oil well is seen east of Casper, Wyo., on Feb. 26, 2021. The Biden administration is raising royalty rates that companies must pay for oil and natural gas extracted from federal lands.

The state of Wyoming and extractive energy industry leaders argued in Wyoming’s district court on Friday, May 14, that the Biden administration’s pausing of new oil and gas leases is illegal.

Oil and gas leases were paused for about 15 months – or five quarters, starting in early 2021. Typically sales happen every quarter. But, in April the U.S. Department of Interior announced it is resuming lease sales in June, following a court order from a similar case in Louisiana.

The interior department argued in court that leasing had to be paused due to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires an environmental review of all new lease parcels. The department said the process was not finished in time for sales.

The plaintiffs argued it is the responsibility of the government to complete the review in time.

The oil and gas industry has challenged the lease pauses through court cases in Wyoming, North Dakota and Louisiana.

A sale will be held for Wyoming on June 22. Nationwide, about 20 percent of the usual number of parcels are being offered and royalties rates that companies must pay are being raised.

Judge Scott Skavdahl said he will take the arguments into advisement and issue a decision soon.

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