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(Reuters) – Fourteen U.S. states including Louisiana and Wyoming filed lawsuits on Wednesday against President Joe Biden’s administration, challenging his pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters.
The legal actions, which seek to restore regular federal drilling auctions, came a day before the administration is set to launch a review of the oil and gas leasing program.
Biden, a Democrat, in January signed an executive order putting on hold new leasing pending that review. During his election campaign, he pledged to end new federal leasing as part of a sweeping plan to address climate change.
The pause has triggered heavy criticism from the oil industry and producing states that receive half of the revenues generated from federal lands drilling within their borders.
“We believe that the president’s actions are illegal and unlawful, and we’re going to hold him accountable for them to try to make sure that the gains that we’ve made over the years to help protect domestic oil and gas and energy continue,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in an interview.
A coalition of 13 states filed one lawsuit in federal court in Louisiana, while Wyoming filed its own lawsuit in federal court in that state.
The states joining Louisiana’s lawsuit included Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. All have Republican attorneys general. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is a Democrat.
The lawsuits allege the administration’s leasing pause violates the Mineral Leasing Act that requires quarterly lease sales.
In its lawsuit, Wyoming said the administration was also required to conduct an environmental review of the leasing suspension under the National Environmental Policy Act before taking action.
“The real consequences of the action are far from certain and far from uniformly environmentally friendly,” Wyoming said in its complaint.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, responding to a question about the lawsuits, said the Trump administration had “flooded the oil markets with cheap federal leases. This will not affect oil and gas markets for years to come.”
The Department of Interior, which oversees the federal leasing program, declined to comment.
Reporting by Nichola Groom and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Will Dunham, John Stonestreet and Richard Chang.