Lawyers ramp up challenges to Trump’s oil drilling push, citing climate impact

(Inside Climate News, 22 Mar 2019) In Wyoming, a judge put oil leases on hold over a failure to consider the climate risks of greenhouse gases. More challenges are planned in the Arctic.

The government's pell-mell race to open up new areas for oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters is running into legal obstacles mounted by conservationists and climate advocates.

Through litigation and procedural maneuvers, opponents of fossil fuel expansion are hoping to overturn key elements of the no-holds-barred oil and gas boom that President Donald Trump and his cabinet have pressed for from the moment they took office.

One victory came this week, when a federal judge ruled that oil leases in Wyoming dating from the Obama years could not be completed without a full-blown environmental impact statement that takes into account the cumulative harms to the climate from emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of oil.

The judge didn't overturn the leases, which cover more than 300,000 acres of public lands, but the decision did put them on hold for what would probably be a prolonged review under a core statute, the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

"In short, BLM did not adequately quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing," U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote.

It's a climate standard that environmentalists have long sought to hold fossil fuel projects to, with only limited success so far. Especially in the fragile Arctic, where the Trump administration has made opening new areas to drilling a priority, they are likely to use the tactic again, along with other objections, in some of the many legal battles to come.

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Inside Climate News, 22 Mar 2019: Lawyers ramp up challenges to Trump’s oil drilling push, citing climate impact