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    US reviewing judicial order on drilling moratorium


The interior secretary said drilling would continue while solicitors mull recent legal decisions.

by: Daniel Graeber

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US reviewing judicial order on drilling moratorium

The US Interior Department, in coordination with solicitors across the federal government, is reviewing a court decision on a moratorium on new drilling leases, members of Congress heard June 23.

Judge Terry Doughty of the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled June 15 that states had proved they would suffer financially from the pause on new oil and gas drilling outlined in an executive order issued by president Joe Biden in one of his first acts after taking the oath of office on January 20.

Testifying before the House Committee on Natural Resources, US interior secretary Deb Haaland said the federal government would “follow the decision of the court,” pending a judicial review across several agencies.

She was addressing concerns raised by Garret Graves, a Republican representing Louisiana, who was concerned about US energy policy toward Russia.

Millions of barrels of Russian oil arrive in the US each month, and the Biden administration has backed off pressuring Moscow over its Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea to Germany, Graves said, so limiting domestic activity is counter-intuitive.

Haaland said the moratorium would not be permanent, but added the federal government was still reviewing its options. Domestic oil and natural gas production, she added, “will continue well into the future.”

Analysts attributed the recent drain on US commercial crude oil inventories to heightened oil exports. Russia, meanwhile, is the eighth-largest crude oil exporter to the US, after Nigeria. For the week ending June 18, federal data show the US imported an average of 185,000 barrels/day of Russian oil. Canada, the top oil exporter to the US, sent an average of 3.4mn b/d during the same week.

On Nord Stream 2, the Biden administration said further sanctions would be moot because the pipeline is nearly complete.