CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- A judge has ruled that the Interior Department must abide by a deadline in the Mineral Leasing Act to either issue or deny oil and gas leases within 60 days of selling them at auction.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled from the bench Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by the Western Energy Alliance.
The petroleum group sued last year over a more than 2-year-old backlog of federal oil and gas leases in Wyoming and Utah. The government has since cleared most of the leases in the lawsuit but decisions are still pending for nine in Wyoming and 38 in Utah.
Freudenthal ruled that the Interior secretary has the right not to issue a lease but the law requires him to make that decision within 60 days of sale.