Judge Blocks Wyoming Drilling, Cites Climate Change

Governor criticizes, but environmental advocates sees decision as 'Holy Grail'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2019 8:03 AM CDT
In this 2013, file photo, Trinidad Drilling rigs are seen off of Way Highway 59 outside of Douglas, Wyo.   (Leah Millis/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP, File)
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(Newser) – A judge blocked oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the US government must consider climate change more broadly as it leases public land for energy exploration. The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade that have faulted the US for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas, and coal projects on federal land, per the AP. US District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington appeared to go a step further than other judges in his order issued late Tuesday. Previous rulings focused on individual lease sales or permits. But Contreras said that when the Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, officials must consider emissions from past, present, and foreseeable future oil and gas leases nationwide.

"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. It came in a lawsuit that challenged leases issued in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado in 2015 and 2016, during Obama's administration. Two competing quotes:

  • In favor: "This is the Holy Grail ruling we've been after, especially with oil and gas," said Jeremy Nichols of advocacy group Wildlife Guardians. "It calls into question the legality of oil and gas leasing that's happening everywhere."
  • Against: "Bringing our country to its knees is not the way to thwart climate change," said GOP Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. "We need solutions, not grandstanding."
(Read more oil drilling stories.)

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