Citing climate change, US judge blocks oil and gas drilling in much of Wyoming

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By Associated press

INVOICES, Mont. – A judge has blocked oil and gas drilling on nearly 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the US government needs to consider the impacts of climate change more broadly, as it leases huge expanses of public land for energy exploration.

This order is the latest in a series of court decisions over the last decade – including one last month in Montana – that criticize the United States for not taking into account greenhouse gas emissions. they approve oil, gas and coal projects on federal lands.

US Judge Rudolph Contreras, of the US District in Washington, seemed to go further than other judges in his order last Tuesday.

Previous decisions related to individual sales or leases. But Contreras said that when the US Bureau of Land Management auctions public land for oil and gas leases, officials must consider emissions from past, present, and future leases that are foreseeable in the future. nationwide.

"Given the national and cumulative nature of climate change, considering each drilling project under a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context needed to assess oil and gas drilling on federal lands." declared Contreras.

This decision coincides with an aggressive push by the administration of President Donald Trump to open more public lands to energy development.

This was a lawsuit challenging leases in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016 under the administration of President Barack Obama.

Only leases in Wyoming were immediately addressed in the Contreras decision. It prevents federal officials from issuing drilling permits until a new environmental review of greenhouse gas emissions is completed.

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

WildEarth Guardians climate program director Jeremy Nichols predicted that the decision would have far more significant consequences than stopping drilling in parts of Wyoming, assuming the government is responding to Contreras' request.

"It's the Holy Grail decision we've followed, especially with oil and gas," Nichols said. "This calls into question the legality of the oil and gas leasing that occurs everywhere."

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon criticized the decision, saying that carbon emissions should not be reduced at the expense of workers who provide reliable and affordable energy.

"Putting our country on our knees is not the way to thwart climate change – we need solutions that are not imposed," said Gordon, a Republican.

Federal officials reviewed the court's decision to determine its implications and made no further comment, said BLM spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt.

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