Oil and gas leasing rejected in Wyoming because, well, climate change

Judge blocks Trump's drilling plans across the U.S. because they ignored climate change impact

"It calls into question the legality of the Trump administration's entire oil and gas program", Nichols told the Washington Post. "BLM's NEPA violation consists merely of a failure to fully discuss the environmental effects of those lease sales; nothing in the record indicates that on remand the agency will necessarily fail to justify its decisions to issue [environmental assessments] and [findings of no significant impact]".

"In short", wrote Judge Contreras, "because BLM can not fully prevent GHG emissions from oil and gas drilling once leases have been issued, BLM was required to assess the reasonably foreseeable impacts of drilling, at the leasing stage".

In his ruling (pdf), Contreras ordered the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to redo its analysis of hundreds of drilling projects in Wyoming to account for their potential climate impacts.

The plaintiffs maintain that while the ruling applies to Wyoming, it has implications for public lands across the American West and is "a major rebuke to the Trump administration's anti-environment, anti-climate agenda". Only the leases in Wyoming were immediately addressed in Contreras' ruling, which blocks federal officials from issuing drilling permits until they conduct a new environmental review looking more closely at greenhouse gas emissions.

The case was brought by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land", wrote Contreras, an appointee of President Obama.

Contreras urged BLM to take the responsibility to assess the leases' impact on the environment seriously.

"The judge is asking BLM to take a wild guess at how many wells would be developed on these leases", said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance.

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"This ruling is a triumph for our climate", said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program director for plaintiff WildEarth Guardians. "This forces them to pull their head out of the sand and look at the bigger picture". The sale of a lease does not necessarily mean a well will be drilled, but the judge wrote that it is "an irrevocable commitment to oil and gas drilling".

In other words: Putting off decisions about climate impacts is no longer an option.

Recent reports suggest the president also plans to open federal waters to oil and gas drilling, including off the East Coast in the Atlantic Ocean, Reuters reports. In a draft analysis past year of its plan to freeze fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projected that if the US continued on its current path the globe could warm by 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century and suggested that this trend illustrated why curbing carbon emissions would make little difference to the planet. The money is split between the federal government and states where the extraction occurs.

Trinidad Drilling rigs are seen off of Way as a judge blocked oil and gas drilling across nearly 500 square miles in Wyoming.

A spokesperson for the Department of Interior would not comment on ongoing litigation.

Tuesday's ruling only pertains to 282 leases issued in Wyoming after five sales held in 2015 and 2016.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon criticized the ruling, saying carbon emissions shouldn't be reduced at the expense of workers who provide reliable and affordable energy.

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