Description: Lawsuit challenging pause on new oil and gas leasing on public lands and in offshore waters.
Louisiana v. Biden
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 09/22/2021 Judgment Download Motion to dismiss denied. Louisiana Federal Court Allowed States to Proceed with Challenge to “Pause” on Onshore and Offshore Leasing. On September 22, 2021, the federal district court for the Western District of Louisiana denied the Biden administration’s motion to dismiss claims by Louisiana and 12 other states challenging the administration’s “pause” on new offshore and onshore oil and gas leasing. The court agreed with the entirety of a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation issued on August 23 that recommended denial of the motion. First, the magistrate found that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged facts demonstrating that President Biden’s Executive Order 14008—which ordered the pause—exceeded the President’s statutory or constitutional authority and that the states therefore stated a claim against the President for ultra vires review. The magistrate said the executive order “unambiguously commands the Secretary [of the Interior] to act with the language ‘shall pause’” and that the “boilerplate language” requiring the Secretary’s actions to be “consistent with applicable law” was a “‘purely theoretical’ savings clause as it offers no mechanism for the [Department of the Interior] to implement the order in a manner consistent with law other than simply refusing to implement the order outright.” Second, the magistrate found that the states’ allegations of economic harm established their entitlement to an exception to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act’s (OCSLA’s) 60-day notice requirement. The magistrate further found that the states’ claims that the defendants violated the OCSLA and the Mineral Leasing Act were reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The magistrate was not persuaded by the defendants’ arguments that the claims were improper programmatic challenges and that agency actions were not final. The magistrate also found that the states’ factual allegations were sufficient to state claims under the APA. 09/21/2021 Opposition Download Defendants filed objections to report and recommendation to deny motion to dismiss. 09/17/2021 Notice Download Plaintiff states filed notice of withdrawal of motion for order to show cause. On September 17, 2021, the states withdrew their motion for order to show cause and to compel compliance with the court’s June 2021 preliminary injunction. The states notified the court of the withdrawal after the federal government took actions on August 31 to proceed with offshore and onshore lease sales. 08/24/2021 Opposition Download Memorandum filed by defendants in opposition to plaintiffs' motion for order to show cause and compel compliance with preliminary injunction. 08/23/2021 Report and Recommendation Download Report and recommendation issued by magistrate judge. 08/16/2021 Notice of Appeal Download Notice of appeal filed. Federal Government Proceeded with Offshore and Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing but Appealed Louisiana Federal Court Injunction. On August 16, 2021, federal defendants filed a notice of their appeal of a Louisiana federal district court’s decision granting plaintiff states’ motion for a preliminary injunction barring the Biden administration from implementing a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters. A week earlier, the plaintiff states filed a motion for order to show cause and to compel compliance with the preliminary injunction, arguing that the defendants violated the court’s order by refusing to hold new onshore lease sales and move forward with offshore lease sales. The defendants opposed this motion, contending that they had been working over the last 10 weeks to prepare to hold onshore and offshore leases, and that they were “on track” to publicly announce onshore and offshore leasing activity by August 31. In a press release on August 24, the Interior Department announced steps to comply with the district court’s injunction and also said it would undertake “a programmatic analysis to address what changes in the Department’s programs may be necessary to meet the President’s targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” On August 31, BOEM issued a record of decision for Lease Sale 257. Also on August 31, BLM sought public input on parcels proposed for potential oil and gas leasing. 08/09/2021 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed in support of motion for order to show cause and to compel compliance with preliminary injunction. 06/28/2021 Opposition Download Brief filed by plaintiff states in opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss. 06/15/2021 Order Download Order issued granting plaintiff states' motion for preliminary injunction for reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum ruling. 06/15/2021 Ruling Download Plaintiff states' motion for preliminary injunction granted. Louisiana Federal Court Blocked Biden Administration “Pause” on New Oil and Gas Leases. The federal district court for the Western District of Louisiana issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring the Biden administration from implementing a “Pause” on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters. President Biden ordered the pause in Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” to allow completion of a “comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities …, including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters.” Although the states challenging the pause based their request for a preliminary injunction on federal agencies’ violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, the court found as an initial matter that the states had made a showing that President Biden had exceeded his powers when he ordered the “Pause” because the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) does not grant specific authority for the President to pause offshore oil and gas leases. The court then proceeded to conclude that the states had alleged standing, with allegations of particularized and concrete injuries based on loss of proceeds from new leases, as well as from loss of jobs and economic damages. The court found that those alleged injuries were fairly traceable to the pause and that a favorable ruling would redress the injuries. The court also found that the states could establish standing as a result of “special solicitude.” In addition, the court found that the states’ claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) were within the “zone of interests,” as were their citizen suit claim under OCSLA and their ultra vires claim. The court rejected the government’s contention that the “Pause” and related actions—the cancellation and stoppage of offshore lease sales and the cancellation or postponement of “eligible lands” under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA)—were not final agency actions reviewable under the APA. The court cited cases finding actions that were not permanent to be final agency actions. In addition, the court rejected the contention that these actions were committed to agency discretion and therefore not reviewable; the court held that the pausing of a lease sale was not within the discretion of agencies under either the OCSLA or the MLA. With respect to the criteria for a preliminary injunction, the court found that the states had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits on proving that the federal agencies implemented the “Pause” as directed by the executive order both to sales under the MLA and the OCSLA. The court concluded that the states had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the federal agencies’ actions were contrary to law (the OCSLA and MLA), that their actions were arbitrary and capricious, that the agencies failed to provide notice and an opportunity to comment, and that they unreasonably withheld or unreasonably delayed action they were required to take. The court also found that the states demonstrated a substantial threat of irreparable injury in the form of “very substantial damages” from lost ground rents and bonuses that would be difficult or impossible to recover due to sovereign immunity. In addition, the court found that equity and the public interest weighed in favor of the plaintiff states. Having found that the factors for a preliminary injunction were satisfied, the court also found that the injunction should be nationwide in scope due to the need for uniformity. 06/07/2021 Motion to Dismiss Download Memorandum filed in support of defendants' motion to dismiss. 05/28/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by plaintiff states in support of motion for preliminary injunction. 05/20/2021 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by amici curiae Healthy Gulf et al. in opposition to plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. 05/19/2021 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed by defendants in opposition to plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. 05/12/2021 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by Utah and Colorado counties as amici curiae in support of plaintiff states' motion for preliminary injunction. 05/12/2021 Motion Download Motion for leave to file brief as amici curiae filed by Utah and Colorado counties. 05/10/2021 Order Download Motion to transfer denied. Louisiana Federal Court Denied Government’s Motion to Transfer in Challenge to Pause on Oil and Gas Leasing. The court denied the government defendants’ motion to transfer the case to the District of Wyoming pursuant to the first-to-file rule. The court concluded that although there was “some overlap” between the two cases, there was not “substantial overlap.” The court noted that the federal agencies and the statutory authority were not the same, with the Wyoming suit being a “much narrower challenge to one agency decision, while the Louisiana suit is a much broader claim against several agencies, and President Biden.” In the absence of complete overlap, the court concluded that factors such as the plaintiff states’ interests in having the suits heard in a forum that handles both the Mineral Leasing Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the states’ “substantial financial interest,” and the potential burden to the District of Wyoming all weighed in favor of denying the motion to transfer. The court also declined to sever and transfer the land-based portion of the lawsuit. 05/10/2021 Order Download Motion to intervene denied. Louisiana Federal Court Denied Conservation Groups’ Motion to Intervene in Challenge to Pause on Oil and Gas Leasing. On May 10, 2021, the federal district court for the Western District of Louisiana denied conservations groups’ motion to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s suspension of oil and gas lease sales on public lands and offshore. With respect to intervention as of right, the court found that the conservation groups did not overcome the presumption that the government defendants’ representation of their interests would be adequate. The court said the government and the groups shared the “same ultimate objective,” which in this case was about the government’s “constitutional and statutory authority, not about climate policy.” In denying permissive intervention, the court again cited the government’s adequate representation of the groups and also said allowing the groups to intervene “could expand the case to issues not before this Court” that were not necessary to decide. The court invited the conservation groups to seek amicus curiae status. 05/06/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by intervenor-defendants in support of motion to intervene. 05/06/2021 Reply Download Reply filed in support of defendants' motion to transfer. 05/04/2021 Opposition Download Memorandum filed by plaintiff states in opposition to conservation groups' motion to intervene. 05/04/2021 Opposition Download Memorandum filed by plaintiff states in opposition to federal defendants' transfer motion. 04/27/2021 Motion Download Motion filed by defendants to transfer, or alternatively to sever and transfer, to the District of Wyoming under the first-to-file rule. Federal Defendants Sought to Move Louisiana Case to Wyoming. The defendants asked the court to transfer the case to the District of Wyoming under the Fifth Circuit’s first-to-file rule, which the defendants said was applicable given the “potential significant overlap” between this case and the separate case brought by Wyoming. Alternatively, the defendants asked the court to consider severing and transferring the claims concerning onshore leasing while allowing the offshore leasing claims to remain in the Louisiana federal court. 04/27/2021 Motion to Intervene Download Motion to intervene filed by conservation groups. 03/31/2021 Motion Download Motion for preliminary injunction filed. 03/24/2021 Complaint Download Complaint filed. States Filed Lawsuits Challenging Pause on Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Activities. Thirteen states filed a lawsuit in federal court in Louisiana challenging actions taken pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, which directed the Secretary of the Interior to pause new oil and natural gas leasing activities on public lands and in offshore waters. The states asserted that actions implementing this moratorium on leasing activities violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. On March 31, the states asked the court for a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants “to execute the statutory duties of the offices regarding and gas leasing as if the Moratoriums did not exist” and enjoining the defendants from implementing the rescission of a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and postponements of a lease sale in Cook Inlet in Alaska as well as quarterly lease sales on public lands. A separate lawsuit was filed by Wyoming in federal court in Wyoming.