A federal judge has temporarily blocked new drilling on 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming after ruling that the US Department of the Interior “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when allowing oil and gas companies to lease federal land in the state.
The Trump administration is known for being suspicious of climate change and courting the favor of oil and gas giants. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, for instance, was famously cozy with fossil fuel companies. In 2018, the Interior Department offered more than 12.8 million acres of public lands to oil and gas companies, according to The New York Times. In Wyoming, the number of drilling rigs doubled from 2016 to 2018.
Now, US District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras has ruled that, by doing so, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act, according to The Washington Post. By not taking into account the effect of drilling on greenhouse gas and climate change, the department withheld crucial information to policymakers and the public that might have affected their attitude toward the sales. “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 before irretrievably committing to that drilling,” Contreras wrote.
Though there have been many environmental lawsuits against the Trump administration in the past two years, this ruling is likely to be felt by the local fossil fuel industry. Wyoming is one of the top producers of fossil fuels in the nation.
Kyle Tisdel, director of the climate and energy program at Western Environmental Environmental Law Center, which partly represented the plaintiffs, said that the ruling would have “broad ramifications” on how the BLM will do these analyses. Under the order, the BLM now has to provide documents that show that it has taken a “hard look” at greenhouse gas emissions before it can issue any new permits to drill on the Wyoming land.