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Oil and gas industry groups suing feds over quarterly lease sales

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Chris Woodward

(The Center Square) – Oil and gas industry groups are suing the federal government for not holding oil and gas lease sales in the third quarter of this year.

The lawsuit, filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, lists U.S. Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland and the Bureau of Land Management, which manages most energy development on federal lands, as respondents. The Colorado-based Western Energy Alliance and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming argue the quarterly lease sales are required under the federal Mineral Leasing Act. 

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“Oil and natural gas companies have nominated millions of acres in Wyoming and across the West that have yet to be offered for sale,” Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said in a press release. “Not only has this administration held only one set of lease sales in its first two years, but has now signaled that there will be no sales until second quarter 2023, a full year later.”

Sgamma also takes issue with the department’s new policies that she says “make it more difficult” to lease and develop oil and gas on public lands. 

“The announcement came just days before the Administration gave the green light to Venezuelan development,” Sgamma noted. “Rather than buttressing up dictators, President Biden could tell his agencies to back off increasing red tape meant to suppress American production so that we can do more to reduce high energy prices for the country and the world.”

PAW President Pete Obermueller said the federal government owns more surface and minerals in Wyoming than anyone.

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“Wyoming’s oil and gas operators must have a pipeline of new leases to continue to explore and develop our world-class resources,” Obermueller said. “One lease sale a year does not cut it, and unfortunately court intervention appears to be the only recourse in forcing the Biden Administration to respect rule of law." 

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon last week filed a similar lawsuit against the department over failing to hold lease sales in the second and third quarters of 2021 as well as the third quarter of this year. 

“Wyoming’s energy resources can help power the nation and bring down costs at the pump,” the governor said upon announcing his latest lawsuit. “I believe the pause in lease sales was politically driven and not based in law or fact.” 

In April, Haaland said the Interior’s actions are meant to take into account things such as local communities, the environment, air quality, and water.