‘Another win for the climate’: Judge orders disclosure of climate impacts on public lands in two states

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In a victory for the environment and activist groups, a judge has ordered a climate review of the impacts of public lands fracking in Colorado and Utah.

In March a federal judge rejected the sale of public lands for fracking, halting drilling on more than 300,000 acres in Wyoming. Then last Friday the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) asked a U.S. District Court for a similar “remand” of several decisions to sell public lands for oil and gas development in Colorado and Utah.

The decision was due to the fact that the court found that the Interior Department failed to account for climate implications of leasing the public lands for fracking.

“This is another win for the climate and another step forward for defending our public lands from unchecked fracking,” said Jeremy Nichols, director WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program, the group responsible for the legal fight against fossil fuel industry’s lease of public lands. “The Trump administration simply has no defense; it can’t deny its duty to disclose and take action on the climate impacts of fossil fuel development on public lands.”

“Fracked gas is dangerous for people and terrible for the climate,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Environment and Health Program director for Physicians for Social Responsibility. “This latest win is not only another victory for our health and future, but it reinforces that the oil and gas industry doesn’t get a free pass to pollute.”

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Now agencies must “consider the cumulative impact of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions generated by past, present, or reasonably foreseeable BLM lease sales in the region and nation,” says the federal judge who ruled in the case.

Environmental groups now plan to ask for a halt to the issuance of any new drilling permits while climate assessments take place for lands in Colorado in Utah.

“This isn’t a matter of doing more paperwork, it’s a matter of enforcing restraint to preserve our ability to keep making progress for the climate,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, managing attorney for WildEarth Guardians.

Fossil fuel drilling, both onshore and offshore oil and gas, has shown to account for nearly 25 percent of all U.S. climate pollution. In order to have the “immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions” that scientists have called for, the U.S., and especially the Trump administration, needs a reality check to realize the role of fossil fuels on the decline of the Earth. So far more than 25 million acres of public lands have been leased to the oil and gas industry in the U.S.

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