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Federal Judge Says Biden Cannot Pause New Leases for Drilling on Public Lands

  • June 16, 2021

Environmentalists celebrated the pause as a sign that Mr. Biden is serious about shutting down production of fossil fuels, the burning of which is the chief cause of global warming.

Scientists have warned that the world needs to urgently cut emissions if it has any chance to keep average global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which experts say the planet will experience catastrophic, irreversible damage. Temperature change is not even around the globe; some regions have already reached an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.

A recent report from the International Energy Agency concluded that if the world is to stave off the most devastating consequences of global warming, major economies must immediately stop approving new coal plants and oil and gas fields.

Republicans and the oil industry criticized the pause as an example of government overreach that could damage the economy and displace thousands of oil and gas workers.

Judge Doughty agreed. “Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake,” he wrote in his decision, noting that the states depend on a share of the lease payments to fund government programs, including conservation projects. “Local government funding, jobs for plaintiff state workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s coastline are at stake.”

About 10 percent of the country’s oil and gas supply comes from public lands. Fossil fuel drilling on federal lands and waters and tribal land generated more than $8 billion in tax revenue last year, according to the Interior Department. Of that, $2.9 billion went to the federal government, $1.8 billion went to state and local governments, with the remainder spread among Native American tribes, restoration projects and other funds.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department, which manages federal oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, said in a statement that the administration was reviewing Tuesday’s ruling and would comply with it.

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