By Heather Richards
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — Wyoming’s congressional delegation on Thursday slammed a federal decision blocking oil and gas drilling on 500 square miles of Wyoming land pending a climate change impact analysis.
The stay on drilling is the result of a lawsuit fi led by the environmental group Wildearth Guardians, which protested the Obama-era Bureau of Land Management’s failure to consider the climate cost of leasing federal land for oil and gas drilling.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled in favor of Wildearth regarding 300,000 acres in Wyoming leased in 2015 and 2016.
The suit was originally intended to force the Obama administration to consider the cumulative nature of climate change in developing federal minerals. Now, conservation groups tangled in a number of battles with the Trump administration over its energy dominance agenda see the decision as a precedent they hope can hobble what they argue is irresponsible development of fossil fuels in the West.
Wyoming politicians disagreed.
Sen. Mike Enzi called the decision “short-sighted” and said it was a manipulation of the judicial system.
“Leasing public lands is vital for our continued efforts to keep energy prices low and create energy independence for the nation,” he said.
Low oil prices had been a goal for the Trump administration, with the president tweeting about the need to keep the price of crude under control. Wyoming’s economy, however, had been improving thanks to crude prices strengthening throughout late 2017 and much of 2018. During that time Wyoming also benefited from an increase in lease sales and revenue from an industry sector encouraged by price and political support.
Between 2016 and 2017, the state’s revenue from both federal and state sales increased by 800 percent. The price decline of recent months had dampened some of that optimistic outlook.
Sen. John Barrasso also criticized the court decision in a statement Thursday, while praising Wyoming’s environmental record when it comes to energy development.
“This bad decision will hurt workers in Wyoming, reduce revenue for the state and slow America’s energy production,” Barrasso said.
Rep. Liz Cheney, meanwhile, said the ruling highlighted the need to overhaul the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to evaluate their proposed actions for environmental impacts before rendering decisions.
“I will continue to work with President Trump to pursue policies that restore the voice of local stakeholders in Wyoming and reduce the serial litigation imposed by radical environmental groups,” Cheney said in a statement.