BLM emissions lease language challenged again

This regional map shows the BLM lease parcels in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah at issue in WildEarth Guardian’s suit to bring stronger greenhouse-gas analyses to the table.

Comment period also open for 2008-2010 amended sale EA

A Washington,

D.C., judge is considering if the Bureau of

Land Management’s amended environmental

assessment’s lease-sale language about emissions

and climate change is sufficient for certain

challenged 2015 and 2016 parcel sales.

At the same time, separate from but influenced

by that case, on Oct. 7 the BLM posted

a new EA on parcels previously sold June

2008 to May 2010 for which leases are not

issued. The 10-day comment period closes

Oct. 17.

“There is no other pending litigation regarding

BLM Wyoming Oil and Gas Sale

(National Environmental Protection Act) to

our knowledge,” spokesman Bradford Purdy

said on Friday.

WildEarth vs. Zinke

In 2016, WildEarth Guardians and a conservation

coalition filed suit in the U.S. District

Court against former Interior Secretary

Ryan Zinke and the BLM against certain lease

sales in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, saying

the EAs and “findings of no significant impact”

did not sufficiently consider greenhouse

gas emissions and climate change, court records


The suit targets nine lease sales of 463,553

acres – five in Wyoming between May 2015

and August 2016 that total 282 parcels and

more than 302,000 acres. The judge considered

each state separately with Wyoming

BLM first in line.

Western Energy Alliance and Petroleum

Association of Wyoming, along with Wyoming,

Utah and Colorado attorneys general,

responded to argue that no emissions were

anticipated as an outcome of their administrative

notices to sell the parcels.

On Sept. 27, WildEarth Guardians filed

an amended complaint asking District Judge

Rudolph Contreras “to vacate and void” the

BLM’s recent authorizations of the challenged

leases, order BLM to undertake a full environmental

impact statement with “direct, indirect

and cumulative effects of the BLM Oil and

Gas Leasing Program on climate change” on

the programming level and maintain jurisdiction

“to ensure (BLM takes) a meaningful

hard look” at climate change.

In the meantime

On Oct. 7, BLM posted a new EA “for

previously sold lease parcels June 2008-May

2010” with more in-depth language about

emissions and climate change, citing the Contreras

decision in the WildEarth Guardians

suit. Those leases are still not issued.

“The BLM analysis (for the lawsuit) was

completed and posted for public comments

on April 12,” it states. “The final documents

were signed and posted on May 7. This updated

analysis however, did not include acreage

for parcels that were ‘sold, but not issued’

addressed in this EA.”

This EA “documents a comprehensive review”

of 83 Wyoming BLM parcels sold between

June 2008 and May 2010.

“The purpose and need for this (Oct. 7) EA

is to provide updated analysis on GHGs and

Climate Change consistent with court’s decision

in WildEarth Guardians, et al. vs. Zinke,

which found that ‘BLM had failed to take a

‘hard look’ at GHG emissions from the challenged

Wyoming lease sales, and therefore the

EAs and FONSIs issued for those sales did not

comply with the National Environmental Policy

Act and determine whether there will be

significant impacts as a result of this updated

analysis. BLM will decide, based on this analysis

and (documents), whether to issue leases

for 83 parcels.”

The BLM concluded its EAs were otherwise


Back to 2016

The conservation group argued selling

leases anticipates drilling and the BLM could

not defer GHG and climate analyses until development

plans and applications for permits

to drill are submitted, records show.

In March, Judge Contreras granted “in

part” the coalition’s summary judgment

motion regarding the Wyoming BLM’s EAs,

remanding them for more about potential

emissions. Wyoming BLM also was prohibited

from authorizing APDs for challenged

leases until stronger language was added.

In May, BLM requested and received a voluntary

remand for Colorado and Utah BLM

offices to follow the same path as Wyoming.

“All parties agree that BLM was required

to analyze drilling-related emissions,” Judge

Contreras wrote. “BLM’s failure to quantify

greenhouse gas emissions was this contrary to

NEPA. The court agrees.”

In April, Wyoming BLM posted a supplemental

EA for a “truncated” 10-day comment

period with a new FONSI two weeks later,

which WildEarth Guardians argues is still insufficient.

WildEarth Guardians asked the judge to

not allow BLM to take “a unilateral position

that because it has completed its supplemental

EA it can begin issuing APDs.” It asked the

judge to require BLM to “demonstrate satisfaction

of the court’s order.”

In August Judge Contreras ordered all

parties to plan a new status report and for

WildEarth Guardians to file an amended complaint.

On Sept. 9, the joint status report schedule

was filed requiring BLM and Wyoming

responses on Oct. 14, with deadlines running

through February.

WildEarth Guardians filed its amended

complaint on Sept. 27 challenging the “new”

2019 supplemental EA and decision for the

2015-2016 lease sales.

“It fails to properly analyze direct, indirect

and cumulative impacts of emissions of

greenhouse gases on the climate of any future

development,” the amended complaint states.

“… The western U.S. is particularly susceptible

to accelerating effects of climate change.”

To see the BLM’s amended environmental

assessment for the court-challenged sales, or

to read the Oct. 7 EA with a comment period

ending Oct. 17, go to https://eplanning.blm.

gov and refer to the NEPA Register.


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