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Two oil and gas industry agencies sue the feds over pausing oil and gas lease sales

Stephanie Joyce

The saga of lawsuits over oil and gas lease sales on public land continues. On Monday, Dec. 5, two western agencies announced they are suing the federal government.

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) and the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), which represents more than 200 oil and gas companies in the West, have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The state of Wyoming filed a similar lawsuit Dec. 1, as well.

They argue the agency illegally withheld the third quarter oil and gas lease sale of federal land this year.

“The Mineral Leasing Act is clear: the Interior Secretary must hold at least quarterly lease sales in every state where there is interest, as reflected by nominations,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of WEA, said in a press release.

There has been only one sale in the past two years – typically there are four per year. But, when President Biden took office his office largely paused the sales citing environmental concerns as a main reason.

“It is the policy of this administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security," Gina McCarthy, national climate adviser, said at the time of the pause.

It is unclear what the verdicts of the lawsuits will be, as this fall, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl of Wyoming upheld the decision to postpone the first quarter sale of 2021.

“...postponing the first quarter 2021 lease sales was done to ensure NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) compliance with several then-recent federal court opinions that negated previously authorized oil and gas lease sales,” Skavdahl wrote in his decision.

PAW, WEA and the state of Wyoming were part of that lawsuit too; however, they now argue Skavdahl’s court decision was specific to that sale and is irrelevant to the current lawsuit.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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