Richter orders US to resume oil leasehold sales in North Dakota

BISMARCK, ND (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to resume regular oil and gas lease sales on state lands in North Dakota, even as a legal battle over the Biden administration’s suspension of the lease program two years ago continues in a row Efforts to combat climate change.

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley hailed the ruling as a victory, saying canceled leasehold sales have cost North Dakota over $100 million in revenue each year and provided the nation with “much-needed access to oil and gas during these trying times.” inflation and threats to our energy security”, reported the Bismarck Tribune.

However, the judge also denied the state’s request to force the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency, to conduct sales that were canceled in 2021 and 2022.

“North Dakota has a significant likelihood of prevailing and has satisfied the other factors in favor of an injunction,” US District Judge Daniel Traynor wrote in his 82-page order filed Monday. “However, given this preliminary stage of litigation and the incomplete administrative files, not all of the remedies sought by North Dakota are adequate.”

Last year’s federal climate law contained a policy compromise among Democrats that would ensure the sale of oil and gas leases by linking them to Biden-sponsored renewable energy development. Citing this statute, federal officials in June proposed a leasehold sale totaling 21,000 acres (8,498 hectares) in North Dakota and Montana.

But how often future rental sales will occur remains a point of contention.

Senior Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Michael Sawyer said in court documents that North Dakota’s push to resume quarterly leasehold sales before the lawsuit is decided was a “quick judgment” and exposed the Bureau of Land Management to increased litigation risk environmental groups would expose .

Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle declined to comment on the ruling.

Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement that he welcomed the judge’s decision to require the bureau to resume “their statutory quarterly oil and gas lease sales.”

The state is one of the country’s largest oil producers, behind Texas and New Mexico.

Burgum has blasted the White House for trying to move the country off fossil fuels, and praised the oil and gas industry as a “powerhouse” and “game changer” for the country’s economy.

Coal, oil and gas are by far the biggest contributors to global climate change, according to the United Nations, and have led to more extreme wildfires, storms, hurricanes, droughts and floods in recent years, signaling what the UN is calling a “Code Red” for humanity” that could cause trillions in damage.

In September, the Biden administration reached a legal settlement committing the government to do so Reconsider potential climate damage from oil and gas leases listed for sale under the Trump administration on government properties in North Dakota and Montana.

Similar deals were reached Lease sales for thousands of square miles in public lands under the Trump and Obama administrations in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

About a quarter of fossil fuels in the US come from federal lands and waters, making them important to industry and a target for climate activists looking to end leasing.

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