Federal Judge Halts Drilling on Public Lands Over Climate Concerns

Despite the president’s attempts at packing the courts, the Trump administration hasn’t done so well at the federal level these days. The latest blow comes to oil and gas leases administered by the federal government, which allow companies to exploit resources on public lands for relatively small fees. A judge just blocked drilling on 300,000 acres of publicly-held land in Wyoming — though the move is temporary, not permanent.

Even more importantly, the judge specifically cited climate change in the decision, which opens up the possibility of pursuing similar litigation in other states.

Advocacy groups WildEarth Guardians, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Western Environmental Law Center brought suit in 2016, arguing that the administration failed to consider the potential ramifications of climate change in oil and gas leasing decisions.

If that date is giving you pause, trust your instincts: It was indeed a suit originally filed against the Obama administration that has carried over to the Trump era, thanks to the federal government’s aggressively pro-oil agenda and the decision to lease out millions of acres of public land to private companies across states like Wyoming and Montana. Some states rely heavily on revenue from oil and gas exploration, with Alaska being a particularly notable example.

In the suit, environmental advocates argued that the process of leasing public lands should include a consideration of potential climate impacts, including calculating the ramifications of opening up land to drilling and exploring how to limit those harmful impacts.

Fossil fuels extracted on public lands produce 25 percent of American climate pollution, highlighting that this is not a trivial issue. Environmental reporting is required for all kinds of development, from building a house to opening up land to oil drilling, and the law requires it to be comprehensive and informed by a variety of…

Read more