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Utah joins lawsuit against Biden administration over gas and oil rights

Mar 25, 2021, 12:13 PM | Updated: 3:29 pm
Utah joins lawsuit over oil and gas leasing ban....
Utah joins lawsuit over oil and gas leasing ban.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah joined a lawsuit Wednesday initiated by Louisiana, challenging the executive order signed by President Biden on Jan. 27. The suit asserts the executive order violates a pair of federal laws requiring the United States be allowed to continue further gas and oil development.

Utah joins lawsuit

 The presidential executive order bans any new oil or gas leasing on federal lands or offshore waters. 

“The Biden administration’s unlawful moratorium on federal land leasing threatens Utah’s oil and gas industry,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told the Deseret News. “Not only does the industry add billions of dollars to Utah’s economy each year, it also supports over 32,000 jobs in Utah. Revenue from oil and gas leases and royalties help fund schools and local governments, as well as health, safety, and environmental projects across the state. Without any explanation, President Biden’s order stops leases in violation of federal law.”

The lawsuit called the order a “flagrant disregard” of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Mineral Leasing Act. That act says it’s the Interior Department’s nondiscretionary statutory duties to oversee timelines to develop oil and natural gas resources on federal lands and waters. 

“Those leases do more than allow America to reach its full energy-production potential —they provide significant environmental benefits because portions of the lease proceeds are invested into vital state environmental defense and restoration projects,” the lawsuit states. “Executive Order 14008 glistens with irony. It purports to protect the environment, but it constitutes what is likely the single-largest divestment of revenue for environmental protection projects in American history.”

Possible consequences 

Those objecting to the ban say billions of dollars of the proceeds from the leases are returned to the states to fund environmental projects. The ban will harm Utah in several ways, according to the challengers, including:

  • $58.6 million it gets from federal leases.
  • $124.4 million in natural resources property taxes assessed by counties.
  • $33.2 million in severance taxes.
  • $3.7 million in oil and gas conservation fees.

The complaint goes on to state the ban will cause highly consequential impacts to private and state trust lands.

“A moratorium on federal leasing discourages investment from oil and gas companies in leasing or developing state sections when the companies cannot also lease the federal land surrounding the state acreage. Accordingly, lost investment in federal leases results in lost investment in state leases, depriving Utah and Utah schools of state mineral leasing, production and tax revenues,” the suit continued.

The oil and gas industries have previously filed separate lawsuits over the Biden executive order. 

The Biden Interior Department is scheduled to hold a brief meeting about this today. 

Other states participating in the lawsuit

Other states also suing the Biden Administration over the Jan. 27th executive order are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

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Utah joins lawsuit against Biden administration over gas and oil rights