Federal decision on oil and gas drilling in Wyoming opens up new opportunities to challenge BLM's lease agreements in Utah

Washington • Federal judge's decision to terminate new oil and gas leases and review hundreds of others in Wyoming does not directly affect Utah, but could lead to new challenges lease agreements in the state.

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

While leases in Utah were not covered by the decision, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) says the Contreras ruling paves the way for challenging leases issued in Utah.

The plaintiffs in the case, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, have amended their complaint to include Utah leases since 2017. They include about 532 plots covering more than 777,000 acres in the US. State.

"This decision highlights a significant and, in our view, fatal flaw in every sale of oil and gas leases owned by BLM in Utah during the reporting period. [President Donald] The Trump administration, "said Stephen Bloch, legal director of SUWA.

"Over the last two years, BLM has worked hard to implement the extravagant program of" energy dominance "of the administration. Result: Hundreds of new leases have been sold in Utah's wildest and most cultural landscapes. Areas such as the Four Corners (Southeast Utah), San Rafael Desert and Book Cliffs have been covered with oil and gas concessions, "said Bloch. "Fortunately, the decision of Judge Contreras gives us a powerful tool to repair this evil."

A large-scale auction of oil and gas leases is scheduled for next week in Utah.

Contreras, a federal judge in Washington, kept the lawsuit in his court and said he wanted the BLM to conduct a thorough review and not just file the documents.

BLM spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt said the agency was still reviewing the decision and "determining the way forward regarding the implications".

The complainants said the decision would have implications beyond Wyoming.

"This is the Holy Grail decision we are longing for, especially for oil and gas," said Jeremy Nichols, director of the WildEarth Guardians climate program. "This calls into question the legality of the oil and gas leasing that occurs everywhere."

The oil and gas industry retreated, arguing that the BLM was already analyzing the impacts of climate change.

"The judge is asking BLM to guess how many wells should be placed on these leases," said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, a Republican, suggested the state appeal the decision.

"We will explore options and follow up with our partners from the states, the federal government and the industry," Gordon said, according to the Washington Post. "Our country's efforts to reduce carbon emissions must not be focused on the livelihoods of engaged workers and industries who seek to provide reliable and affordable energy, especially when we do not take into account the effects. harmful to other growing industries. Putting our country on its knees is not the way to thwart climate change. "

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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