This Wyoming field is largely on federal land, where fracking is occurring to extract oil. A federal judge has ruled the Trump administration needs to consider climate change before issuing oil and gas exploration permits on U.S. land.
Melanie Steson Greeman—Christian Science Monitor/Getty
By Erin Corbett
March 20, 2019

A federal judge has ruled the Interior Department failed to consider the environmental impact of oil and gas leasing in the Western U.S. states in violation of U.S. law, the Washington Post reports.

The Tuesday decision by Judge Rudolph Contreras for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is the first to challenge the Trump administration’s plans to boost fossil fuel production.

In his decision, Contreras said the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when it decided to auction off federal land in Wyoming that would be used for gas and oil drilling.

The ruling will at least temporarily protect 300,000 acres of Wyoming land from drilling. Contacted by Fortune, a spokesperson for Interior declined to say whether the Trump administration will appeal the decision.

The case was filed in August 2016 by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, during Barack Obama’s presidency. In response, the Obama administration ordered a three-year moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal property to consider their effects on climate.

Soon after taking office in January 2017, President Trump rescinded Obama’s moratorium and Clean Power Plan in a sweeping executive order intended to increase domestic oil and gas production. To that end, Trump’s made other changes, such as approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Recent reports suggest the president also plans to open federal waters to oil and gas drilling, including off the East Coast in the Atlantic Ocean, Reuters reports.

When Fortune asked about the Trump administration’s oil-drilling plans, Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management at Interior, said in a statement: “President Trump has given clear direction that he wants to safely secure additional domestic energy from public lands on behalf of the American people… that will result in more jobs and economic growth, make America safer, benefit state and local conservation programs, and improve infrastructure.”

 

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