Judge Blocks Oil, Gas Drilling Projects Citing Climate Change

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A federal judge blocked oil and gas drilling in part of Wyoming, claiming the Department of the Interior had not considered the implications of drilling with respect to climate change when it organized its lease sales.

The Associated Press quotes U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras as saying in his ruling that “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 added that the Bureau of Land Management needed to consider the environmental impact of oil and gas drilling from the past, the present, and the foreseeable future before they line up land plots to lease to drillers.

Interestingly, the ruling is on a case that predates the pro-oil Trump administration that has opened up more federal land to drilling. Bloomberg recalls the case was brought to court by two environmentalist groups back in 2016. The plaintiffs asked that drilling be stopped on federal lands in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Contreras effectively put a stop to oil and gas drilling across 300,000 acres in Wyoming.

Now, the Bureau of Land Management will need to conduct a new environmental review focusing on emissions before it issues new drilling permits.

Meanwhile, an oil lease in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday attracted US$244 million in bids, signaling the oil industry’s renewed interest in the legacy producing region as production prices slip lower.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management tendered all federal territory open for drilling, 78.5 million acres in total. Bids were placed on 1.26 million acres, which is better than what the previous Gulf of Mexico auction attracted. After the Contreras ruling, interest in the Gulf might increase further if drillers decide onshore drilling in some parts of the States is becoming too risky an endeavor.

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