Biden is suspending oil and gas leases amid a legal battle over climate

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is postponing decisions on new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and other energy-related actions after a federal court blocked the way officials calculated the real costs of climate change.

The administration said in a legal statement that a Louisiana federal judge’s ruling of Feb. 11 would affect dozens of rules from at least four federal agencies. Among the immediate consequences is an indefinite delay in planned oil and gas sales for rent on state lands in half a dozen western states.

The decree will also postpone plans to limit methane waste emissions from natural gas drilling on state lands and a plan to develop energy-saving standards for housing intended for production, the administration said. The decree will also postpone a $ 2.3 billion federal grant program for transit projects, officials said.

A report submitted by the Ministry of Justice on Saturday night “confirms that some activities related to (administration) fossil fuel leasing and permitting programs are affected by the February 11, 2022 ban,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement. “Delays are expected in permits and leases for oil and gas programs.”


The interior continues to move forward with reforms to onshore and offshore oil and offshore programs and “is committed to climate change in its programs,” said spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz.

The delays stem from a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Kane of West Louisiana County, which barred federal agencies from using an estimate known as the “social cost of carbon” to assess pollution from carbon emissions from energy and other industrial sources. The decision blocked the Biden administration from using a higher assessment of the damage done to society by each additional tonne of greenhouse gas pollution.

President Joe Biden on his first day in office resumed estimates of climate spending to about $ 51 per tonne of carbon emissions after President Donald Trump lowered the figure to $ 7 or less per tonne. Trump’s assessment included only the losses felt in the United States, compared to the global damage previously used by President Barack Obama.


The damage figure uses economic models to account for the effects of sea levels, intermittent droughts and other effects of climate change, and helps to shape the rules for drilling oil and gas, automotive and other industries. The use of higher cost estimates would help justify reducing emissions from warming planets, due to the fact that the benefits are more likely to outweigh the costs of complying with the new rules.

“The overall burden of the previous ban is quite significant,” wrote Dominique Mancini, deputy administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulation and Budget.

The Department of Energy has identified 21 norms that will be affected by this decision, while the Department of Transport has identified nine, the Environmental Protection Agency has identified five and the Department of the Interior has identified three, Mancini said. He also said that dozens of other environmental analyzes required under the National Environmental Policy Act would be touched upon.


The analysis of federal regulators “is often a very complex and time-consuming study that can take months to develop and refine,” Mancini wrote in a 24-page briefing supporting the Justice Department’s request to overturn Cain’s ruling.

Changing the value of key parameters, such as the social value of greenhouse gases, will require agencies to “restart numerical models and simulations they can use to develop impact assessments,” he added, and could force agencies to revise new figures. , “which may take even longer.”

The decision by Cain, Trump’s nominee, came after 10 Republican attorneys general sued Biden, arguing that Biden lacked the power to increase climate spending under the Constitution, which gives that power solely to Congress. Kane agreed, writing that the use of climate damage figures in oil and gas lease reviews “artificially increase the estimate of rental costs” and will do direct harm to energy-producing states.


Estimates of Biden’s carbon costs have been used infrequently, but are being considered in an environmental review of oil and gas leased sales in the western states. After the Biden administration missed a deadline to announce a planned lease in his state, Wyoming Sen. John Barass said the administration “continues to ignore the courts and the law” without allowing progress in oil drilling on state lands.

“Even in the face of the global energy crisis, historic inflation and soaring gasoline prices, the Biden administration continues to destroy energy production in the United States,” said Baraso, a senior Republican on the Senate Energy Committee.

Economist Michael Greenstone, who helped establish the social cost of carbon while working for the Obama administration, said Cain’s ruling could jeopardize U.S. efforts to tackle climate change.

“The social cost of carbon determines the severity of climate policy,” said Greenstone, a professor at the University of Chicago. “Establishing a near-zero level of the Trump administration effectively removes all teeth from climate regulation.”



Associated Press writer Matthew Brown of Billings, Montana, contributed to this story.

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