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Interior Dept. must weigh climate impacts of oil, gas leasing

oil drilling

(Reuters) — The Biden administration must thoroughly analyze the climate impacts of oil and gas leasing on nearly 4 million acres of federal land in five states before drilling can take place, according to legal settlements reached late Wednesday.

The requirement comes after Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied industry groups' motion to dismiss three previous settlements from lawsuits brought by western U.S. conservation groups against the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management.

“These settlements represent a fundamental opportunity for the Biden administration to align federal action with this climate reality and to keep its promise to present and future generations,” said Kyle Tisdel, senior attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center, one of the plaintiffs.

The settlements come six years after groups including WELC and WildEarth Guardians jointly launched lawsuits challenging the sale of millions of acres of public lands for drilling in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

In March 2019, Judge Contreras blocked the drilling permits and required Interior to conduct a deeper environmental analysis that weighed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling. This week, he upheld the requirement after a challenge by industry groups.