Louisiana AG Jeff Landry files lawsuit against what he calls President Biden’s ‘attack on American energy independence’

Biden’s order temporarily suspended oil and gas leases on public lands and waters

By: - March 24, 2021 3:04 pm

A floating drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. (Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement/Public Domain)

Attorney General Jeff Landry has filed a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s executive order that temporarily suspends new oil and gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.

On Wednesday Landry announced in a press release that he is leading 13 state attorneys general in a federal lawsuit against what Landry calls the Biden administration’s “attack on American energy independence.” Filed in Louisiana’s Western District, the suit seeks an injunction that would lift Biden’s moratorium of new oil and gas permits.

Biden issued Executive Order 14008 on Jan. 27, which he described as consistent with his campaign promise to help tackle climate change. The order creates a number of new policies that overall seek to wean the country off of fossil fuels and instead embrace renewable energies. 

The order pauses new oil and gas leases pending a “rigorous review” of all existing leasing and permitting practices relating to fossil fuel development. The Secretary of the Interior is also directed to consider adjusting royalty rates for coal, oil, and gas extracted from public lands or to take other actions to account for climate costs. 

Deb Haaland was sworn in as secretary of the Interior this month, and in the first public event of the review ordered by the president, she has scheduled a forum comprising the energy industry, conservation groups, labor organizations and others that will meet virtually Thursday

It also eliminates fossil fuel subsidies and aims to double offshore wind production by 2030 and achieve a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035, as well as facilitate the use of clean and zero-emission vehicles for federal, state, local, and tribal government fleets.

But Landry views the order as an attack on the fossil fuel industry and claims it will turn over the nation’s energy security to foreign countries that despise America.

“By executive fiat, Joe Biden and his administration have single-handedly driven the price of energy up – costing the American people where it hurts most, in their pocketbooks,” Landry said in Wednesday’s press release. “Biden’s Executive Orders abandon middle-class jobs at a time when America needs them most and put our energy security in the hands of foreign countries, many of whom despise America’s greatness.”

About 3.3 percent of the oil consumed in the United States comes from foreign countries — mostly from Canada, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Canadian oil counts for about half of all U.S. petroleum imports. The second largest share comes from Mexico but it amounts to only a fraction of Canada’s share. 

The U.S. exports slightly less oil than it imports, about 8.47 million barrels per day compared to 9.14 million barrels per day, respectively. And America’s best customers are also its best suppliers: Mexico and Canada.

Landry said Biden’s order will kill the oil and gas job market in Louisiana, but that market has been shrinking since an oil price crash in 2014.

At a Feb. 11 joint meeting of the Louisiana House and Senate Natural Resources committees,  Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, who spoke in opposition to the Biden administration’s orders, said, “I think most people will look at the evolution of technology in the energy sector (and) agree that eventually we will turn to alternatives for transportation for power generation. The problem is that the current federal administration is trying to dismantle our current energy economy well before alternative technologies are ready….Preemptively crippling the sources of energy that currently drive the US and global economy is foolish and wrongheaded.”

Guillory said between summer 2014 and December 2020, the Lafayette metro area lost 58 percent of its oil and gas jobs, a decline, he said, that “has been devastating to our local economy.” Between January 2000 and January 2021, Guillory said, “the combination of expanded regulatory constraints and market forces resulting in low prices have led to a 90% collapse in offshore activity.”

Anne Rolfes, the director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said after that meeting that Guillory’s comments illustrate that it isn’t regulation that’s killing the state’s drilling industry; it’s a decreasing demand for oil.

The other state attorneys general that joined Landry in filing the lawsuit are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.