Interior Leasing Plans Still Murky Despite Thaw

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The US Department of the Interior plans to resume holding federal lease sales as it appeals a court ruling that scrapped the Biden administration’s leasing pause, but the timing and substance of those sales, especially for onshore acreage, remains murky. Interior announced late Monday that it would restart leasing as it works to overturn a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Western District of Louisiana that its January freeze of the practice was unlawful (OD Aug.16'21). An Interior spokesman declined to comment beyond the department’s statement Monday. However, oil interests remain concerned that even though Interior said it will resume lease sales, it has not provided any timeline or details for offering fresh acreage. The American Petroleum Institute (API) and other trade groups sued in the same federal court in Louisiana on Monday, in part to force a timeline for holding new sales. The most immediate implications seem to be the possibility that Interior could move forward with two specific offshore sales that were canceled by the Jan. 27 executive order, Energy Intelligence understands. Those include the auction of 78.2 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, initially slated for March this year, and a sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet planned for later this year. Those canceled sales were specifically called out by Judge Terry Doughty as being without “rationale for departing” from the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs five-year leasing plan requirements for offshore acreage in the US Gulf and other federal laws. Interior's Monday statement explicitly states that leasing will “continue as required by the district court while the government’s appeal is pending,” which could indicate those two sales will advance. Onshore Options

Offshore Oil and Gas, Shale
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