US government failed to consider climate impacts of oil, gas: judge
Oil Wells (Shuttershock)

A U.S. judge blocked drilling on more than 300,000 acres of federal land in Wyoming, saying officials in their environmental analyses failed to adequately consider the climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing.

The ruling, by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras, was issued late on Tuesday, according to court documents.

The Department of Interior, which is the defendant in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. DOI oversees the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for oil and gas development on federal lands.

“Having reviewed the record and the relevant law, the Court concludes that — withholding judgment on whether BLM’s leasing decisions were correct — BLM did not sufficiently consider climate change when making those decisions,” Judge Contreras wrote in the order.

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 against the Obama administration by two conservation groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility. It alleged that the government failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act because it did not account for greenhouse gas emissions generated by oil and gas development when it leased parcels in three Western states - Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

The ruling on Tuesday only pertains to 282 leases issued in Wyoming after five sales held between May of 2015 and August of 2016.

In his order, the judge ordered further environmental review by the Bureau of Land Management. Until those documents are completed, he blocked the agency from issuing drilling permits on the leases. He declined to cancel the leases.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama