The ruling, by US District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras, is the first major rebuke to Donald Trump’s efforts to promote American energy dominance, and puts a temporary halt to oil and gas drilling on roughly 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming.
“Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling,” Mr Contreras wrote, essentially saying that the Interior Department had failed to understand the impact of the drilling on the nation’s carbon output.
The decision by Mr Contreras an appointee of Barack Obama, does not void leases granted by the Trump administration in the federal lands. Instead, the Interior Department must now redo its analysis for the hundreds of projects in the state that have been deemed to ave too little analysis.
Jeremy Nichols, with the WildEarth Guardians, a plaintiff in the case, told The Washington Post that the decision would force the US government to disclose how oil and gas drilling on federal land is contributing to climate change.
He said that the next step for his group will be to look to block drilling leases on 560,000 acres of land that are set to be put up for auction next week.
“It calls into question the legality of the Trump administration’s entire oil and gas program. This forces them to pull their head out of the sand and look at the bigger picture,” he said.
The Trump administration has been openly hostile towards studies and warnings that climate change poses a serious threat to the country and the world. Mr Trump himself has dismissed climate change as a hoax, while his administration has ignored government reports indicating climate change must be addressed in the coming decade if the US hopes to avoid disastrous consequences.