US judge lifts injunction against Biden administration oil and gas land sale pause
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US judge lifts injunction against Biden administration oil and gas land sale pause

A US Circuit Court judge Wednesday lifted an injunction against a federal “pause” on oil and natural gas leasing after a previous enjoinment prevented the ban from going into effect.

Fifth Circuit Court Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham vacated a previous judgment from June 2021 that stopped the federal government from enforcing Section 208 of Executive Order 14008, signed by President Biden on January 21, 2021. The order directed the Secretary of the Interior to “pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review,” and was part of the Biden administration’s initial efforts to address the climate crisis.

Thirteen states applied for injunctive relief against Section 208 in the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, alleging the pause order was “arbitrary and capricious” and exceeded the Department of the Interior’s authority under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Particular issues in the case were lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, Alaska.

On June 15, 2021, District Judge Terry A. Doughty ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the order, officially enjoining the administration’s pause on the sale of offshore and public lands.

The federal government then appealed the ruling, arguing that the pause reflected the purpose of the executive order itself and that the injunction violated Rule 65(d)of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires injunctions to state specific reasons and terms for their application. The Fifth Circuit Court vacated and remanded Doughty’s judgment on the grounds that it did not meet Rule 65’s requirement for specificity.

The vacating of the judgment means that the pause will be allowed to go into effect, although the administration has also been caught in recent controversy regarding the leasing of public lands, and compromises made under the Inflation Reduction Act will allow drilling and land selling to continue in some cases.