Federal agencies must “take a hard look” at the impact of oil and gas drilling on climate change, a federal judge ruled late Tuesday, directing the Bureau of Land Management to revisit environmental decisions made by the Obama administration.
The order from Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington, DC, could have significant implications for the Trump administration’s efforts to expand domestic energy production. The administration is considering a plan that would open nearly the entire US coastline to offshore drilling, and last week changed protections for the sage grouse that could open up more of the Western US to drilling.
The order puts on hold any efforts to drill on 303,000 acres of land in Wyoming leased by the Bureau of Land Management between May 2015 and August 2016.
“BLM did not adequately quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing,” Contreras ruled, calling the environmental assessments “inadequate.”
Contreras directed the agency to do a more thorough job and “not to treat remand as an exercise in filling out the proper paperwork.”
The Interior Department, which oversees the BLM, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups that sued, said the lawsuit sets a standard for the Trump administration, whose decisions it believes “run roughshod” over the environment.
“If it didn’t happen during the Obama administration it’s certainly not happening during the Trump administration,” attorney Samantha Ruscavage-Barz told CNN.
The original lawsuit also challenged leases in Colorado and Utah – for a total of 460,000 acres – and the parties had agreed to argue over the three states individually. Ruscavage-Barz said the plaintiffs have not yet decided on their next steps.