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
“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
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.