(Reuters) – The Biden administration must carefully analyze the climate impact of leasing oil and gas on nearly 4 million acres of federal land in five states before drilling can take place, according to legal settlements reached late Wednesday.
The claim comes after Judge Rudolph Contreras of the District Court of Columbia denied the motion by industry groups to dismiss three previous settlements from lawsuits filed by West American conservation groups against the State Department’s Bureau of Land Management.
“These settlements represent a fundamental opportunity for the Biden administration to adapt federal action to this climate reality and to keep its promise to current and future generations,”; said Kyle Tisdel, senior lawyer for the Western Environmental Law Center, one of the plaintiffs.
The settlements come six years after groups including the WELC and WildEarth Guardians jointly launched lawsuits challenging the sale of millions of acres of public land for drilling in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
In March 2019, Judge Contreras blocked the drilling permits and demanded that Interior carry out a deeper environmental analysis that weighed out greenhouse gas emissions in connection with drilling. This week, he maintained the demand for a challenge from industry groups.