The U.S. oil and gas industry reacted with dismay and the first of perhaps multiple lawsuits Wednesday ahead of an executive order (EO) by President Biden directing the Department of the Interior (DOI) to pause new oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands and offshore waters.

Federal acreage oil production

The EO published Wednesday afternoon follows a 60-day freeze on new federal drilling permits and leases by acting DOI Secretary Scott de la Vega on Jan. 20 after Biden was sworn in.

The latest order entails a “targeted pause” that “does not impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases, which are continuing to be reviewed and approved,” DOI said. “The order does not restrict energy activities on private or state lands, or lands that the United States holds in trust or...