In a March 19th ruling on a suit brought by WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, a district court judge blocked oil and gas drilling on almost 500 square miles in Wyoming. The opinion stated that the federal government must consider the cumulative climate change impact of leasing U.S. public land for oil and gas exploration. "The Court concludes that BLM did not take a hard look at drilling-related and downstream GHG emissions from the leased parcels, and it failed to sufficiently compare those emissions to regional and national emissions." The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade that have cited inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas, and coal projects on federal land.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras from the District of Columbia said that when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, "although BLM may determine that each lease sale individually has a de minimis impact on climate change, the agency must also consider the cumulative impact of GHG emissions generated by past, present, or reasonably foreseeable BLM lease sales in the region and nation."
The ruling also states "Downstream use of oil and gas, and the resulting GHG emissions, are thus reasonably foreseeable effects of oil and gas leasing. The EAs' sparse discussions of downstream GHG emissions are insufficient under NEPA, given BLM's ability to forecast oil and gas production and given that the entire purpose of oil and gas leasing is to generate a greater supply of oil and gas for downstream use." The judge has ordered the BLM to amend its environmental analyses but did not vacate the leases, requiring that the deficiencies called out in its ruling be addressed. The decision can be found here.