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Senators Accuse Interior Dept Of Deliberately Delaying Restart Of Oil Leasing

Republican Senators have accused Interior Secretary Deb Haaland of defying a ruling by a federal judge to restart oil leases, issued in response to a temporary suspension—a pause, as it was termed—of these leases by President Biden earlier this year.

“The pause is effectively defying the federal judge’s order to continue,” said Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as quoted by Bloomberg.

“Technically, I suppose, you could say the pause is still in place,” Secretary Haaland said, adding that “We are evaluating our options,” and “There’s a lot of work that goes into moving that forward.”

A Louisiana federal judge blocked President Biden’s ban on new oil leases on federal lands by issuing a preliminary injunction last month. The grounds for the ruling were that the White House had no right to stop oil leasing without the approval of Congress.

The White House paused new oil and gas leases on federal lands in January, saying it would review the margin for potential changes in the existing regulation for the issuance of oil and gas leases.

The immediate impacts of that pause were at the time considered likely to be negligible, but in the medium to long term, new regulations could have far-reaching consequences, not only on U.S. shale production and conventional production offshore but also on the oil revenues and budgets of the states where a large part of the drilling activity currently takes place on federal lands, such as New Mexico.

The industry was quick to respond to the ban, as temporary as it may be. The Western Energy Alliance, just seven days after President Biden took office, filed a lawsuit challenging his order that banned oil and natural gas leasing on federal public lands.

Now, according to the Bloomberg report, frustration with the lease pause is growing both among Republican and Democratic Senators from states such as New Mexico, which reap the benefits of oil leases.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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