Major Climate Change Ruling Threatens to Stall Trump’s “Energy First” Agenda

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Hundreds of drilling projects across Wyoming were temporarily halted last month, after a federal judge found the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had violated environmental laws by failing to consider the climate impacts of natural gas and oil leases in Western states.

The decision is a significant setback for President Trump’s “Energy First” agenda, which seeks to open up large swaths of the nation’s public lands and coastline to energy exploration and production.

Ryan Zehl, a top Oilfield Accident Lawyer, has won record-breaking verdicts and settlements against the largest oil and natural gas drillers the world.

Wyoming Drilling Leases Among Hundreds Facing Court Challenge

The Wyoming drilling projects are among hundreds of Obama-era leases currently being challenged by environmental groups in Washington D.C.

In his landmark ruling last month, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras found that the BML’s environmental assessment for the leases was inadequate because the agency didn’t account for the cumulative effects of climate change.

“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,” he wrote.

The order temporarily blocked drilling on more than 300,000 acres of public lands in Wyoming until the BLM conducts a new environmental assessment. This time around, however, the Bureau must consider the climate impacts of all past, present and future drilling leases nationwide.

Fracking on Public Lands Surges in Trump Era

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, oil and natural gas drilling on public lands accounts for 40% of the nation’s total carbon output. The federal government has already leased more than 25 million acres to oil and natural gas drillers, mostly in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

Fracking on public lands has surged significantly because of President Trump’s Energy First agenda. In fact, the federal government leased over 4 million acres to oil and gas drillers last year alone. For 2019, his administration proposed leasing or has already auctioned off another 2.1 million acres.

Other courts have faulted the BLM for failing to consider climate change when issuing new drilling leases. Those earlier decisions, however, only focused on emissions from individual lease sales.

Judge Contreras went a step further in ordering the Bureau to assess the cumulative effects of all past, present and future drilling. If his decision stands, Trump will finally have to account for the full climate impact of his Energy First agenda.

“It calls into question the legality of the Trump administration’s entire oil and gas program,” Jeremy Nichols, director of WildEarth Guardians’ climate and energy program, told The Washington Post. “This forces them to pull their head out of the sand and look at the bigger picture.”

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