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Utah joins lawsuit to undo Biden block on oil, gas leases

Explainer Biden Vs Oil
Posted at 6:28 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 08:28:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has joined a lawsuit that challenges President Joe Biden's decision to halt oil and gas leases on federal lands.

Utah is joining a dozen other states alleging the action is illegal and could do harm to states involved in fossil fuel development.

"The Biden administration’s unlawful moratorium on federal land leasing threatens Utah’s oil and gas industry. Not only does the industry add billions of dollars to Utah’s economy each year, it supports over 32,000 jobs in Utah," Reyes said in a statement released by his office on Thursday. "Revenue from oil and gas leases and royalties help fund schools and local governments, as well as health, safety, and environmental projects across the state. Without any explanation, President Biden’s order stops lease sales in violation of federal law."

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that Utah could lose hundreds of millions of dollars because of the president's action. For example, Utah got $58.6 million in 2020 from federal mineral leases; $124 million in natural resources property taxes; $33.2 million in a severance tax for oil and gas; and $3.7 million in fees. Altogether, the state produced $4 billion in energy, the lawsuit said. Roughly 35% of that is coal, 24% is crude oil and 34% is natural gas.

"Taxable sales and purchases in mining, and in oil and gas extraction, in fiscal year 2019 totaled $320.8 million," the lawsuit said. "Abundant energy resources in the state means oil, gas, and minerals will continue to play a significant role in the state’s future energy economy."

Other states spell out the impact of the president's action to their economies in the lawsuit.

President Biden's executive order on climate change, issued in January, pauses oil and gas sales on federal lands. The Interior Department hosted a forum on Thursday about the issue with a more complete report due later this year.