Holy Grail? Judge Blocks Drilling, Cites Climate Change

March 21, 2019

oilsunset

Don’t pop the Champaign yet, but this new court ruling might be part of a trend.

AP via CBS:

BILLINGS, Mont. — A judge blocked oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the U.S. government must consider climate change impacts more broadly as it leases huge swaths of public land for energy exploration.

The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade — including one last month in Montana — that have faulted the U.S. for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington appeared to go a step further than other judges in his order issued late Tuesday.

Previous rulings focused on individual lease sales or permits. But Contreras said that when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, officials must consider emissions from past, present and foreseeable future oil and gas leases nationwide.

“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,” Contreras wrote.

The ruling coincides with an aggressive push by President Donald Trump’s administration to open more public lands to energy development.

It came in a lawsuit that challenged leases issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016, during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Only the leases in Wyoming were immediately addressed in Contreras’ ruling. It blocks federal officials from issuing drilling permits until they conduct a new environmental review looking more closely at greenhouse gas emissions.

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

WildEarth Guardians climate program director Jeremy Nichols predicted the ruling would have much bigger implications than a halt to drilling in some areas of Wyoming, assuming the government does what Contreras has asked.

“This is the Holy Grail ruling we’ve been after, especially with oil and gas,” Nichols said. “It calls into question the legality of oil and gas leasing that’s happening everywhere.”

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

WildEarth Guardians climate program director Jeremy Nichols predicted the ruling would have much bigger implications than a halt to drilling in some areas of Wyoming, assuming the government does what Contreras has asked.

“This is the Holy Grail ruling we’ve been after, especially with oil and gas,” Nichols said. “It calls into question the legality of oil and gas leasing that’s happening everywhere.”

Following previous court rulings over climate change, the BLM has gone back and reconsidered the effects of fossil fuels and then re-affirmed its approvals of projects.

That could happen again in this case, with further studies done before drilling is allowed to proceed, said Harry Weiss, an environmental lawyer based in Philadelphia whose clients have included oil and gas companies.

“This decision should not be interpreted as a ban on leasing activities,” Weiss said. “The court is not ruling on whether it’s thumbs up or thumbs down. The court is simply grading how the administration did analyzing the issues.”

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6 Responses to “Holy Grail? Judge Blocks Drilling, Cites Climate Change”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Some small progress is being made in banning offshore drilling as well. “Oh well”, say the oil and gas companies, “we’ll just have to keep drilling thousands of wells and keep fracking away on the land we DO have access to”.

    After all, the U.S. is now the world’s largest oil producer (more than Saudi Arabia), and the rich have to get richer by selling more of the stuff. It would be awful if someone else made that money and squirreled it away with the “finance” people to make more money. Scrooge McDuck lives—-he is still rolling around in the $$$$ that fills his basement, and he has lots of company.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Don’t pop the Champaign yet, but this new court ruling might be part of a trend.

    Is that what they drink in Illinois? 😉

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Trend? Let’s hope so. Here The Guardian:

    In a rebuke of the Trump administration’s ‘energy-first’ agenda, a judge rules greenhouse gas emissions must be considered

    => US judge halts hundreds of drilling projects in groundbreaking climate change ruling

    There are currently about 900,000 active oil and gas wells in the US. A huge legacy for decades if not centuries to come. Every well will eventually start leaking methane, in particular if it’s a gas well.

    => Why gas wells leak


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