Government Contests Injunction in Oil Leasing Suit

The federal government filed an opposition to a request from 13 states led by Louisiana to compel it to comply with an injunction requiring it to complete oil leases. The defendants alleged that they had complied with the injunction citing that 650 person-hours have gone towards the proposed oil sales since the injunction.

The preliminary injunction was granted in June by Judge Terry Doughty who determined that the states could trace injury to the executive order which halted oil leases by the federal government. Further the court said that the plaintiffs had shown that there was a pause on leases since the issuance of the executive order. Because of this, the court issued a preliminary injunction which was designed to end the pause while the litigation continued.

The plaintiffs alleged in August through an order to show cause that this preliminary injunction was not being followed and that the federal government had not made progress on any oil or gas leases. They purported that they were continually being harmed by the federal government because it was not following the orders and asked the court to require President Joe Biden and federal agencies to complete lease sales, specifically lease sale 257.

In the present memorandum in opposition to the order to show cause, the government argued that the plaintiffs have not established that they are in contempt of the court’s orders and that they “improperly” asked the court to exceed its jurisdiction by modifying the injunction. Specifically, they alleged that the plaintiffs do not have evidence of violation of the order.

“When this Court’s preliminary injunction decision (was) issued on June 15, the Department of the Interior immediately announced it would comply with that decision, and it has.  Although Defendants respectfully disagree with the Court’s ruling, they are proceeding with leasing consistent with the Court’s injunction pending their appeal,” the filing said. 

According to the memorandum, an offshore oil lease sale can take three to five years and it should not be expected to have completed a sale so soon after the injunction, even though the sales were in process before Biden’s administration began. The federal government asked the court to decline the plaintiffs requests to enforce the preliminary injunction or modify the order. 

The states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, are represented by their attorneys general. The defendants are represented by the U.S. Department of Justice.