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Wyoming sues Biden over oil and gas leasing moratorium
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Wyoming sues Biden over oil and gas leasing moratorium

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Wyoming filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Wednesday over its decision to temporarily pause the new leasing of federal lands for oil and gas development.

The assistant attorney general filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.

On Jan. 27, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing the U.S. Interior Department to review its oil and gas leasing program. The decision indefinitely paused any new leasing of federal minerals for oil and gas development.

Wyoming’s lawsuit alleges Biden’s order violated federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The defendant in the case is the new Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, along with the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management.

President Biden has now issued 25 executive orders in just over a week in office.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized some of his most recent actions on climate change -- saying they could cost jobs.  "There's nothing green about a tsunami of pink slips for American workers or carding Canadian crude around in trucks and trains instead of a pipeline." Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "This piecemeal green new deal is the wrong prescription, wrong for the environment. Wrong for national security. And most of all for the working Americans who will send before bullying, working Americans, if this keeps up."President Biden has faced scrutiny for the number of executive actions he's taken in his first ten days. Some Republicans say those shouldn't replace bipartisan debate and working with congress. Here's a look at how President Biden's use of executive orders compares to his predecessors.In his first ten days in office... He has signed 25 executive orders... Former President Trump signed just six... Obama signed five ... And George w. Bush and Clinton each signed two in their first ten days on the job.

“Following a careful review of not only the President’s Executive Order, but its practical effect, it is necessary for Wyoming to protect its citizens and challenge the Secretary’s action,” Gordon said in a statement Wednesday. “Not only is this federal action overreaching, it was implemented without public input as required under federal law.”

The Bureau of Land Management, a branch of the Interior Department, typically holds lease sales four times a year in states across the West, auctioning off parcels of federal minerals to oil and gas companies for development.

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But Wyoming’s first quarter sale, originally scheduled for the week of March 15, was indefinitely postponed, “to confirm the adequacy of the underlying environmental analysis,” according to the BLM.

Many elected officials in Wyoming have taken a firm stance against Biden’s proposal to slow fossil fuel production on federal lands in the name of climate change.

The state produces more natural gas and oil from federal minerals than almost any other state in the country and relies heavily on the economic activity and revenues it generates.

The Interior Department has clarified that the leasing moratorium is not intended to stop activity on existing leases held by oil and gas firms.

“The world will continue to need and use oil and gas for the foreseeable future,” Gordon continued. “The question is whether it will be produced under the environmental safeguards in place on federal lands in Wyoming, or overseas without equally stringent regulations.”

Wyoming political leaders and industry groups have been on the offensive since the Biden administration issued orders earlier this year to pause oil and gas activities on federal lands.

“Wyoming is fighting back against President Biden’s war on American energy workers," Sen. John Barrasso said in a statement in response to Wednesday's lawsuit. "Governor Gordon is taking action to combat the Biden administration’s illegal ban on oil and gas lease sales on federal land."

"The people of Wyoming were never consulted before this executive order was signed," he added. "Now, the administration will hear our arguments in court."

Last week, the state joined 20 other states in a separate lawsuit against the Biden administration over its decision to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry and the environment at @camillereports


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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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