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Law & the Courts

Judge Orders Trump Admin. to Study Climate Impact of Drilling on Federal Land

(Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

A federal judge in Washington ruled Tuesday evening that the Interior Department violated the law by opening up federal land in Wyoming to oil drilling without studying how the move would contribute to the country’s overall carbon footprint.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras argued that the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management “did not sufficiently consider climate change” before auctioning off some 300,000 acres of federal land to drilling companies in 2015 and 2016, the Washington Post reported.

While Contreras did not void the leases, he did temporarily suspend the onset of drilling while the administration examines how it would impact America’s carbon footprint.

“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 before irretrievably committing to that drilling,” he wrote.

Western Energy Alliance president Kathleen Sgamma, whose group is one defendant in the case, told the Post that the analyses conducted were in keeping with precedent and said Contreras’s ruling would be nearly impossible to comply with.

“This judge has ignored decades of legal precedent in this ruling,” she said. “The judge is basically asking BLM to take a wild guess on how many wells will be developed on leases, prematurely.”

The ruling, if upheld, will likely jeopardize Trump’s energy agenda, which relies on ramping up U.S. fossil-fuel production in order to increase independence from foreign energy markets. In its latter years, the Obama administration began analyzing the impact of domestic oil production but Trump administration officials have largely ignored such data in favor of reenergizing the fossil-fuel industry.

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