During his campaign, President Joe Biden made several pledges regarding his first days in office. One of these was to halt the leasing of federal land to oil and gas companies as part of the broader initiative of reducing greenhouse carbon emissions by 50% of what it was in 2005 by 2030. During the Trump administration, 5.6 million acres of onshore federal land were sold for oil, gas and mineral development.
By Jan. 27, 2021, Biden put the pause into effect with the intention of having the Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) do a formal review after 60 days. The Department of the Interior affirmed that any leases that were in effect prior to the pause would not be disrupted.
According to the BLM's website, “The BLM remains committed to managing our programs in a way that restores balance on public lands, creates jobs, and provides a path to align the management of America's public lands with our nation's climate, conservation, and clean energy priorities.” More specifically, “The ongoing review is assessing, among other issues, whether the current leasing process provides taxpayers with a fair return for extraction of the Nation’s oil and gas resources; how to ensure it complies with applicable laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, and the United States’ trust responsibilities; and how it will take into account climate change and environmental justice. In recent years, courts have found the current leasing process in violation of various governing laws, invalidating both the BLM’s guidance and a number of lease sales. In connection with the review, the BLM will analyze and ensure that any future leasing complies with applicable law — including requirements for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts—to better withstand administrative and judicial review. The comprehensive review required by E.O. 14008 has the potential to identify and recommend solutions for serious deficiencies in the leasing regime.”
The pause did not remain uncontested. On March 24, 2021, the day before the act was to begin being reviewed, 14 states filed a lawsuit against the President stating that the pause violated the Mineral Leasing Act. The states who filed the lawsuit include Wyoming, West Virginia, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska and Alabama. As of now, both the lawsuit and the formal review are underway with the BLM refraining from holding any lease sales during the second quarter of 2021.