Energy group to appeal federal court ruling allowing Biden admin to delay oil and gas lease sales

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FIRST ON FOX: The Western Energy Alliance, a fossil fuel trade group, is planning to appeal a federal court decision that upheld the Biden administration's oil and gas leasing delays.

The Denver-based group slammed the court's ruling, arguing it allows the federal government to ignore a legal mandate to hold quarterly onshore oil and gas lease sales on public lands. A spokesperson said the group, which represents 200 oil and gas companies in western states, would soon file an appeal in the case and was confident its arguments would hold up.

A silhouette of working oil pumps. (iStock / iStock)

"This decision is unfortunate, as the judge essentially gives the government a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to the environmental analysis required for any lease sales," Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma told FOX Business. "Interior can just claim that it isn't done with the environmental analysis and, therefore, it doesn't have to hold sales."

Sgamma added that the ruling appeared to conflict with a federal court's decision in Louisiana permanently enjoining the Biden administration from pausing the federal oil and gas leasing program.

BIDEN APPROVES LARGEST OIL, GAS LEASE SALE IN US HISTORY, STEAMROLLS ECO REVIEW WITH INFLATION BILL

Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., testifies before a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be secretary of the interior. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP / AP Newsroom)

On Friday evening, Judge Scott Skavdahl of the U.S. District Court for the District Of Wyoming ruled that the Department of the Interior's decision to postpone oil and gas lease sales was "not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion." He added that the Western Energy Alliance and Wyoming, the two plaintiffs challenging the Biden administration in the case, lacked standing to challenge the leasing delays.

The Biden administration had repeatedly delayed holding onshore lease sales. The administration held its first sales in June, 18 months after taking office in 2021, leasing just 71,251 acres of public land for oil and gas drilling. 

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By comparison, the Trump administration leased 478,420 acres of public land for drilling during its first 12 months, according to a FOX Business analysis of federal data.

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The Western Energy Alliance and Wyoming state officials argued in court that the Biden administration's decision not to hold any leases throughout its first year violated the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, which requires oil and gas lease sales "at least quarterly."

Several environmental groups, which intervened on behalf of the Biden administration in the case, applauded Skavdahl's ruling on Tuesday.

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"We find it reassuring that the court affirmed the Bureau of Land Management’s authority to postpone oil and gas lease sales to make certain they adhere to the law," Melissa Hornbein, a senior attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, said in a statement.

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