It’s barely been a week since he became the 46th President of America. Still, President Joe Biden has just been dealt with another lawsuit, this time after he decided to halt oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters.
According to Reuters, the Western Energy Alliance, a group representing fossil fuel producers active on federal lands, sued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, alleging that Biden exceeded presidential authority.
Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma described Biden’s action as a “ban,” despite his administration trying to claim it was just a temporary halt on leasing. In contrast, the administration reviews how to balance oil and gas on federal lands better.
It’s clear as day for everyone to see that it’s a ban on oil and gas, but the Biden administration is trying its best to downplay what they’re doing.
“The law is clear. Presidents don’t have the authority to ban leasing on public lands. All Americans own the oil and natural gas beneath public lands, and Congress has directed them to be responsibly developed on their behalf,” Sgamma said.
ClearView, an energy research group, said that the Interior Department’s secretary has broad discretion in managing public land.
According to the group, the Mineral Leasing Act requires the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to sell fossil fuel leases every quarter. However, another statute, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, allows for the withdrawal of public lands from energy leasing in emergencies.
The Interior Department claims that the pause “won’t impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases, which are continuing to be reviewed and approved.”
Before Sgamma dealt President Biden the lawsuit, a Native American tribe that produces oil went after the Biden administration first.
The Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee in Utah slammed the Biden administration and requested it to be exempt from the temporary suspension of oil and gas leasing on federal and tribal lands.
“Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination. Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation,” Luke Duncan, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee in Utah, wrote in a letter to acting US Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega.
“The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation respectfully requests that you immediately amend Order No. 3395 to provide an exception for energy permits and approvals on Indian lands. The Ute Indian Tribe and other energy-producing tribes rely on energy development to fund our governments and provide services to our members,” the letter added.
“Order No. 3395 violates the United States treaty and trust responsibilities to the Ute Indian Tribe and violates important principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Your order was also issued in violation [of] our government-to-government relationship. Executive Order No. 13175 on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, and Interior’s own Policy on Consultation with Tribal Governments,” the letter continued.