Feds Can't Ignore Climate Change When Considering New Fossil Fuel Leases, Says Judge

Mar 27, 2018

A federal judge has ruled the federal government can’t ignore climate change when considering new fossil fuel leases in Montana and Wyoming.

In what is being called a ‘monumental decision,’ the court rejected a plan to keep 15 million acres of public land in the Powder River Basin open to new drilling and mining citing climate change.

“So it’s certainly a win for our public lands and a win for our future generations,” said Kyle Tisdel, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center.

The Powder River Basin produces nearly half of all the coal in the United States. It’s also a big oil and gas region.

But Judge Brian Morris of the District of Montana said the Bureau of Land Management needs to look at how new fossil fuel leases could affect rising global temperatures.

So he ordered the agency to go back to the drawing board.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Chuck Denowh, a spokesperson for the industry coalition Count on Coal Montana.

He said the ruling could hurt both jobs and state budgets.

“It’s part of the way we pay for resources,” Denowh said. “So the less development we have over time that means we’re going to shift that burden on to other taxpayers.”

The decision only effects new leases or those that were sold during the lawsuit.