The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana who ordered that plans continue for lease sales that were delayed for the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska waters “and all eligible onshore properties.” The decision is a blow to President Biden's efforts to rapidly transition the nation away from fossil fuels and thereby stave off the worst effects of climate change, including catastrophic droughts, floods, and wildfires. US District Judge Terry Doughty's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states, the AP reports. Doughty said his ruling applies nationwide. It grants a preliminary injunction—technically a halt to the suspension pending further arguments on the merits of the case.
“The omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim,” he wrote. “We are reviewing the judge’s opinion and will comply with the decision," an Interior Department statement emailed by communications director Melissa Schwartz said. "The Interior Department continues to work on an interim report that will include initial findings on the state of the federal conventional energy programs, as well as outline next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future.” Reaction ranged from Landry calling the ruling a victory "for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans" to a public lands program director warning that it "turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that’s devastating our planet." (Read more oil and gas leases stories.)