By: Laila Kearney – Reuters – North Dakota is suing the U.S. government on claims the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management illegally canceled oil and gas lease auctions in the state.
The complaint, filed late Wednesday with the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota Western Division, said March and June auctions nixed by the federal agencies cost the state $80 million in lost revenues.
“I have taken this action to protect North Dakota’s economy, the jobs of our hard-working citizens, and the states rights to control its own natural resources,” North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in a statement.
North Dakota is the second-biggest crude oil-producing U.S. state, with the bulk of its tax revenues produced by oil and gas activity. The amount of lost revenue caused by canceled leases could grow into billions of dollars in the coming months, the state argued. Additionally, North Dakota has seen a steep decline in production and new development as a result of the COVID pandemic.
The Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior was not immediately available for comment.
The lawsuit follows a ruling by a federal judge in Louisiana last month blocking the Biden administration’s pause on oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters.
The order granted a preliminary injunction to Louisiana and 12 other states that sued Democratic President Joe Biden and the Interior Department over the leasing freeze, a key element of the White House’s effort to address climate change.