Wyoming takes new angle on leasing lawsuit


SUBLETTE COUNTY – Wyoming is already participating in one multistate lawsuit and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming is attached to another, both targeting President Biden’s “temporary” moratorium on new and oil and gas leases on federal land.

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office filed a new lawsuit March 24 against Biden’s Executive Order 14008 that petitions the “de facto moratorium” recently implemented by newly appointed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

The legal challenge, filed in Wyoming’s U.S. District Court, argues Haaland’s implementation of EO 14008 is “invalid” and “overreaching.” It petitions the court to review the agency’s “clever scheme” as “patently unlawful and must be set aside.”

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal is assigned the civil case with Honorable Kelly R. Rankin as magistrate judge. 

‘Clever scheme’

Haaland, the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management “indefinitely suspended all federal oil and gas lease sales in response to (Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order). Rather than taking this action publicly and transparently, however, the Secretary has instead instituted a de facto moratorium on all (BLM) oil and gas lease sales on the public lands through a series of individual lease sale postponements and cancellations in Wyoming and across the nation,” the petition says.

“Regardless of the clever scheme employed to shroud the Secretary’s action from both public view and judicial review, this de facto moratorium in furtherance of the Executive Order is final agency action that has already caused and will continue to cause significant and irreparable harm to Wyoming,” it says.

The lawsuit lists the executive order and moratorium as violating BLM resource management plans by closing sales and the Mineral Leasing Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.

Lacks EIS

It argues Haaland violated the FLPMA “by withdrawing an entire public domain from federal oil and gas leasing” without following required procedures.

Also – NEPA requires “federal agencies to look before they leap, but here the Secretary did not pause to consider the many environmental and socioeconomic consequences of instituting this moratorium,” it says. “Simple belief that an action is good for the environment does not justify skipping the environmental review required by law.”

The public should have been able to have “an honest and fair debate” about outcomes, including if “moving production from public lands where the strictest environmental regulations apply, to private lands and foreign countries where the same rules do not apply,” the petition says. “But the Secretary ignored the law and in so doing cut the people of this country and the several sovereign states out of the process.”

Haaland, Interior and BLM also failed to “take a hard look” at effects with an environmental impact statement.

Further, Biden’s election as president does not give him the right to “take far-reaching actions of national consequence without any public process,” it says.

Injunction

The petition calls for Judge Freudenthal to declare the “de facto moratorium” violates the above policy acts and to set aside and vacate the decision. It also asks the judge for a preliminary or permanent injunction against any federal attempts to impose a moratorium, and to order Haaland to resume Wyoming BLM’s quarterly lease sales.

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