U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, District of Columbia, has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians against the Department of Interior, Debra Haaland, Bureau of Land Management, and Tracy Stone-Manning for lack of standing by the plaintiffs in a suit that aimed to shut down all drilling permits in the state of Wyoming issued since 2021.

Had the case been upheld, close to 900 applications would have been vacated (plus more in New Mexico).

The 254 page complaint glares at the impact drilling has on the climate: "The drilling of these oil and gas wells will likely emit 490-600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (“CO2e”) greenhouse gas pollution over the course of their lifespans, equivalent to the annual emissions of between 131-161 coal fired power plants. This is both a nationally and globally significant quantity of emissions."

They make three points against drilling in this order:

    1. Endangered species being pushed to extinction by climate change
    2. Degradation of public lands
    3. Negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, with offices in Washington, D.C., a number of states, and Mexico. With over 1.7 million members, this group's main goal is to observe wildlife for recreation.

The suit's second plaintiff, Wildearth Guardians, is also a non-profit organization. They are based in Santa Fe, New Mexico with offices throughout the West.  Guardians has more than 187,000 members and activists, and its focus is on protecting and restoring wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.

Wyoming is the second largest producers of both oil and natural gas on federal lands. Any attempt to halt operations on federal lands would have an outsized impact on Wyoming. In 2022, Wyoming’s oil and natural gas industry:
    • Contributed $2.72 billion to state and local government operations, including $1.39 billion to K-12 education
    • Paid 51% of all property taxes and 80% of all severance taxes in Wyoming
    • Supported 58,780 jobs and $5.7 billion in labor income in the state

The judge's decision is welcome news for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, who wrote in an email that “Vacating 900 ADPs in Wyoming would have wreaked havoc on Wyoming’s economy, our schools and communities from Gillette to Pinedale and Cheyenne to Wapiti which is why PAW intervened in this case on behalf of every Wyoming resident.”

The petroleum industry dodged this blow, but there is a growing urgency from national supporters to put an end to drilling entirely. Yet even Biden's promise of "no new drilling" was vanquished almost as soon as he took office. The U.S. House of Representatives, in fact, passed a bill earlier this year to expand oil and gas drilling on U.S. public lands and in the ocean.

One thing is certain. Should nearly 1,000 permits be revoked, Wyoming's economy will certainly suffer. The Energy Information Administration shows that Wyoming produces almost 12 times more energy than it consumes and is the second-biggest net energy supplier in the nation.

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