A Judge in Wyoming Shuts Down Trump Oil and Gas Drilling Plan

Trinidad Drilling rigs in Douglas, Wyoming    Photo: Leah Millis, The Casper Star-Tribune via NBC News

A federal judge late Tuesday halted the further development of oil and gas drilling leases from 2015 and 2016 on some 300,000 acres of federal lands in Wyoming because of the Trump Administration’s failure to take climate change into account in its review of the environmental impacts of drilling, according to The Washington Post. The leases are not voided, but the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management that issued them has to redo its environmental analysis of the cumulative impacts caused by the drilling and this time consider how individual drilling projects will increase the nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.  Hundreds of other drilling projects in Wyoming are also potentially caught up in the court’s decision.  But it did not halt a lease sale that ended yesterday which resulted in the loss to development of more than 60% of the sage grouse habitat in Wyoming.

  • The group that brought the lawsuit, WildEarth Guardians, will now try to use this ruling to get an injunction to block federal oil and gas lease auctions scheduled for next week, which cover 560,000 acres of western land.
  • According to a report published last year by the government, oil and gas drilling accounts for 500 million metric tons of the annual carbon emissions by the U.S., which is about 10% of all emissions.
  • The Trump Administration claims their climate change analysis is the same as it was during the Obama Administration, but according to The Post, the “Interior Department began to take into account the climate impacts of federal oil, gas and coal leasing toward the end of President Obama’s second term,” while the “Trump administration officials jettisoned those plans right after President Trump took office.”

This comes as a group of environmental NGOs issued a report called “Banking on Climate Change 2019” detailing the close ties between oil and gas development and the major financial institutions globally.  According to the report, the four biggest global bankers of fossil fuels are all U.S. banks — they are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America. In addition, the report points to Barclays of England, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) of Japan and RBC of Canada, which are all also massive funders of fossil fuel development.  The report says that JPMorgan Chase has provided $196 billion in finance for fossil fuels since the signing of the Paris Agreement, which they claim accounts for 10% of all fossil fuel finance from the 33 major global banks.

Why This Matters:  The oil and gas industry claims this court case will slow the growth of the industry and cost jobs in Wyoming. But the lease sales for drilling in the west recently have been lackluster, plus the U.S. is exporting plenty of natural gas right now. But the government is leasing sage grouse habitat as fast as it can.  There seems to be quite an appetite for financing oil and gas development projects around the world given the huge amount of investment in the sector by some of the largest banks in the U.S.  As long as the banks continue to fund the projects — which they will do as long as they pay a good return — then fossil fuels will keep being produced.  The big banks and big oil and gas are a powerful combination.

To Go Deeper:  You can read the full Banking on Climate Change report here.

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