Federal agencies must “take a hard look” at the impact of oil and gas exploration on climate change, a US federal judge has ruled, according to CNN and others. The ruling “could have significant implications for the Trump administration’s efforts to expand domestic energy production”, CNN says. The decision “amounts to a road map that could be used to challenge hundreds of [other] Trump administration leases as well”, says the New York Times, adding: “experts said that, while the decision could lead to legal delays for the drilling expansion envisioned by Trump by tangling them in litigation, it was unlikely to halt it entirely”.
The judge temporarily blocked drilling on about 300,000 acres [1,300 square kilometres] of land in Wyoming, says the Washington Post, ruling that the cumulative climate impact of wells on the land should have been considered rather than judging individual sites “in a vacuum”. Previous court rulings had focused on likely emissions from individual lease sales or permits, says Time magazine, whereas this new judgement argues authorities should account for emissions from past, present and foreseeable future oil and gas leases. The order is the latest in a string of similar rulings over the past decade, says the Associated Press, that have “faulted the US for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal land”. The Wyoming leases in question were granted in 2015 and 2016 under the Obama administration, notes the Financial Times, but they have been defended in court by Trump administration officials. The FT adds that the order, even if upheld by higher courts, will have a relatively small impact on US oil and gas production, as the lease area in Wyoming represents less than 4% of the federal land leased for drilling in the state. The FT continues: “But the decision is further evidence of how US environmental laws can bind the hands of the federal government…Of 36 court battles over attempted deregulation since January 2017, the Trump administration has prevailed in just two.” The Independent, Hill, Guardian, Axios, Reuters and Bloomberg all have the story.