A federal judge late Tuesday temporarily blocked fracking on over 300,000 acres in Wyoming, ruling the Interior Department illegally failed to consider the climate impact of leasing public land to oil and gas developers.
"With the science mounting that we need to aggressively rein in greenhouse gases, this ruling is monumental."
—Kyle Tisdel, Western Environmental Law Center
"This ruling is a triumph for our climate," Jeremy Nichols, director of WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program, said in a statement.
"To limit greenhouse gas emissions, we have to start keeping our fossil fuels in the ground and putting an end to selling public lands for fracking," added Nichols. "This decision is a critical step toward making that happen."
U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras' landmark decision was focused on the Trump administration's land sales in Wyoming, but environmentalists said the ruling could have national implications.
"It calls into question the legality of the Trump administration's entire oil and gas program," Nichols told the Washington Post. "This forces them to pull their head out of the sand and look at the bigger picture."
HUGE #CLIMATE WIN!@PSRenvironment, @WildEarthGuard, @WesternLaw win landmark suit, judge holds feds illegally ignored climate impacts of selling public lands for #fracking. Case involves #Wyoming, but will ripple across American West.
— WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program (@ClimateWest) March 20, 2019
In his ruling (pdf), Contreras ordered the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to redo its analysis of hundreds of drilling projects in Wyoming to account for their potential climate impacts.
"Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling," Contreras wrote.
During his first two years in the White House, President Donald Trump auctioned off millions of acres of federal land to oil and gas developers.
According to a New York Times analysis last October, "more than 12.8 million acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels were offered for lease" in 2018.
Kyle Tisdel, director of the Western Environmental Law Center's Energy and Communities Program, said in a statement that the judge's ruling on Tuesday is a "powerful reality check on the Trump administration and a potent tool for reining in climate pollution."
"With the science mounting that we need to aggressively rein in greenhouse gases, this ruling is monumental," Tisdel said. "Every acre of our public land sold to the oil and gas industry is another blow to the climate."