By Abby Smith

North Dakota is suing the Biden administration for blocking oil and gas production by canceling lease sales, taking another shot at one of President Joe Biden’s central day-one climate policies to pause oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

The leasing pause has caused headaches for the Biden administration. Last month, a federal judge blocked the policy, siding with 13 Republican state attorneys general to force the Biden administration to end its pause and proceed with offering new leases to drill on federal lands and offshore waters.

North Dakota’s lawsuit, filed late Wednesday, takes aim at the Biden administration for its cancellation of individual lease sales in March and June that the state says were required by law.

The lawsuit says the canceled lease sales will cost North Dakota, the nation’s second-largest oil and gas producer, more than $80 million. That could balloon to billions in lost revenue if the Bureau of Land Management doesn’t begin holding lease sales again, the state claims.

The leasing pause has drawn significant backlash from Republicans, energy companies, and even some Democrats from oil and gas states.

“I have taken this action to protect North Dakota’s economy, the jobs of our hard-working citizens, and North Dakota’s rights to control its own natural resources,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

North Dakota’s lawsuit says the Biden administration hasn’t scheduled the lease sale that was supposed to occur in June, despite the court ruling undoing the leasing pause, nor has it “begun any of the standard preparatory work necessary before a sale can be conducted.”

Biden signed an executive order in January imposing an indefinite pause on issuing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, a step toward fulfilling a campaign promise to ban new leases altogether.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland hasn’t said definitively whether the agency has resumed oil and gas leasing following the court’s ruling, only telling Republican lawmakers last month that the agency was reviewing the decision.

The Interior Department is poised to release a report indicating how it will proceed with oil and gas leasing more broadly. In that report, it will address whether it intends to ban new leasing permanently or propose reforms to raise costs and impose stricter regulation on oil and gas development on public lands and waters instead.

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