'A win for the entire country': Louisiana oil advocates celebrate decision on moratorium

William Taylor Potter
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
President Joe Biden speaks Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Lake Charles, La. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A federal judge in Monroe issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday night, saying President Joe Biden's ban on new oil and gas leases must be lifted — a decision that drew praise from Louisiana's oil and gas groups and industry-friendly politicians.

Louisiana was one of several states that joined the lawsuit seeking to overturn Biden's moratorium, which prevented any new lease sales on federal lands or in federal waters. Lease sales bring significant revenue to state and local governments.

Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District Court of Louisiana said the moratorium must be lifted, saying there was “an omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the leases and in enacting the pause" and that the ban "will ultimately result in losses to plaintiff states which they will likely not be able to recover."

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Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who has been at odds with Biden over oil and gas policy, said in a statement that a long-term moratorium on oil and gas leases would have a detrimental impact on the state's economy.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, and his daughter Sarah Ellen greet President Joe Biden as he arrives at Chennault International Airport, Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Lake Charles, La. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"That said, Louisiana is committed to looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint and get to net zero emissions by 2050 to combat the effects of climate change on our state and to explore alternative energy solutions like wind energy," Edwards said. "Working with industry partners, we will continue to chart new paths in energy creation to continue to power the country and create jobs and opportunity in our state.”

In March, Louisiana received more than $109.9 million for coastal restoration projections through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which gives coastal states a share of the revenue generated from lease sales.

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Biden issued his moratorium via executive order in January, calling for "a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices," including its impacts on climate change.

Opponents of Biden's moratorium have pointed to rising gas prices as a result of the moratorium, though the increase in fuel prices is actually the result of increased demand following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic raged and the world saw a historic surplus in oil and gas supply, production slowed, according to a fact check by USA Today. 

Members of Louisiana's congressional delegation applauded Doughty's decision. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican representing Southwest Louisiana, praised Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry for bringing the lawsuit.

“Jeff Landry has delivered a win for the entire country," Higgins said in a statement. "He’s a man we can count on to get the job done. I’m honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with him, fighting for Louisiana.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry brought lawsuit seeking to overturn President Joe Biden's moratorium on any new lease sales on federal lands or in federal waters.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, also a Republican, called the preliminary injunction "fantastic news." 

In January, Cassidy was part of a group of senators that introduced the Protecting our Wealth of Energy Resources Act that would prohibit the president or leaders of the Interior, Agriculture or Energy departments from blocking leases without approval from Congress.

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“The president should not be able to take away tens of thousands of jobs to fulfill a campaign promise," Cassidy said in a statement. "We need a long-term, all-of-the-above strategy that does not pick winners and losers. The Department of the Interior should immediately begin moving forward with another offshore lease sale.” 

Rep. Garrett Graves, a Republican representing parts of South Louisiana, thanked Doughty for realizing the potential impacts of the moratorium. He said in a statement that it was clear the moratorium would be blocked.

Louisiana's oil and gas advocacy groups similarly praised the judge's decision. The head of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, Mike Moncla, called the injunction "a win for every worker in the country."

The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association and the Gulf Economic Survival Team also released a statement arguing the moratorium would have detrimental impacts to the state economy.

"Any actions that limit Gulf energy development stifles Louisiana’s economic growth, threatens thousands of jobs, and undermines decades of environmental progress," the groups said in a statement. "We support transitional policies that will help us meet our world’s growing energy demands. while protecting our environment, our coast, and our culture.”

Environmental groups have backed Biden's moratorium. Thomas Delehanty, an attorney with Earthjustice, submitted a brief to the court arguing that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has frequently postponed or cancelled lease sales in the past with little justification.

Laura Zachary, the managing director of Apogee Economics and Policy, who was hired to work on the case by the Biden Administration argued the moratorium did not amount to a pause on drilling.

"During these first two full months of the Biden Administration’s term in office, DOI approved more permits for offshore activities in the Gulf of Mexico than it did during the first two months of the Trump administration," Zachary wrote.