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Montana, Wyoming Challenge Oil And Gas Leasing Freeze

Pumpjacks in North Dakota's Bakken oil patch extract oil from deep underground. Oil production has grown nationally in recent months to 9.3 million barrels of oil per day.<em></em>

Montana and Wyoming are each taking the Biden Administration to court over its decision to pause new federal oil and gas lease sales. The two separate lawsuits have similar goals.

One of the Biden Administration’s first executive orders in January froze new oil and gas lease sales pending policy review as part of its goal to combat climate change, according to the order. States say the executive order illegally disrupts a program that brings jobs, tax dollars and other sources of revenue to local governments.

Attorneys general from thirteen states including Montana filed a complaint with a federal court in Louisiana Wednesday arguing Biden exceeded his authority through the executive order and violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen was not immediately available for comment.

A press release from the Montana attorney general’s office says the ongoing pause means Montana will miss out on economic benefits like oil and gas tax revenue and the proceeds from oil and gas that go back into the state environment and restoration efforts.

Montana also receives money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is funded by tax revenue on offshore oil and gas leases. The state currently has zero active drilling rigs according to a rig count from equipment company Baker Hughes.

Separately, the state of Wyoming filed a petition for review of final agency action in federal court in Wyoming claiming the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The Department of the Interior is holding a virtual public forum Thursday as part of the program review mentioned in Biden’s January executive order.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.