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Trump Judges Are Already Screwing Biden's Climate Agenda

President Biden's moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing was struck down—by a Trump-appointed judge.

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President Joe Biden gives a press conference after the NATO summit.
Photo: Francisco Seco/AFP (Getty Images)

Retired blogger Donald Trump may be shrinking from public view, but his legacy will remain imprinted on the U.S. for decades to come, particularly when it comes to the judiciary. That could have huge ramifications on all types of policy, but particularly climate

On Tuesday, District Judge Terry A. Doughty, who Trump appointed to the federal court in Louisiana’s western district, blocked President Joe Biden’s pause on federal oil and gas leasing. The preliminary injunction means that the case will wend through the courts, but the administration must unpause leasing. The judge ruled that Biden needed Congress to approve any moratorium.


In approving the preliminary injunction, Doughty wrote in his decision that “Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake” due to the pause. The ruling gives the 14 conservative state attorneys general who sued the administration a boost, but it’s a bust for the planet, particularly considering what the future could hold as Congress and the administration push other climate policies.

The lease pause is the barest of minimums when it comes to climate policy. The Biden administration has gone to bat for a Trump-era lease and the moratorium on new federal leases is small potatoes compared to the oil and gas wells already in the ground or along the seafloor. It was also only a moratorium, not a full stop. Yet Republican attorneys general opposed it, and they won in front of a Trump-appointed judge. There are 226 other Trump-appointed judges in the court system and a dramatically reshaped Supreme Court standing as the final boss.


Republican attorneys general have already put a full-court press on anything Biden might do. Hell, 17 of them backed the completely fabricated voter fraud case and tried to subvert the will of the people in choosing Biden as president. They’ve since filed a slew of lawsuits, including other, more consequential ones against Biden’s early climate policies. One of them challenges the federal government’s ability to set something called a social cost of carbon that’s essential to gauge the costs and benefits of climate policy.

“I get where [the plaintiffs] are coming from—you don’t like what this implies, so you think the concept should be thrown out—but that’s not correct,” Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University, told Earther at the time it was filed.

That appears to the rule of thumb with the moratorium as well. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, one of the states that sued the Biden administration, declared in a statement, “For our country’s sake, we must prevail over the Biden Administration’s radical, anti-fossil fuel, China First energy policies.”

The statement misses the point that this isn’t anti-fossil fuel policy, but pro-habitable-planet policy. But even with these gaps in logic, the attorneys general looking to stall or outright block climate policy will now be doing so in a court system stocked with potentially sympathetic judges. While the conspiracy theory-riddled election fraud lawsuit never went anywhere even with those judges in place, it appears that climate policies could, unfortunately, be a casualty.