A complaint was filed Tuesday in the District of Columbia against the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and their respective leaders by a coalition of advocacy groups.
The claim for declaratory judgment and injunction challenges the defendant’s recent decision in which it approved the sale of 173 oil and gas lease parcels in eight US states.
Plaintiffs include the Dakota Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper, Montana Environmental Information Center, Rio Grande Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, Western Watersheds Project, and Wildearth Guardians. Conservation groups argue the decision violates both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
The complaint first details the global climate change crisis, describing it as “the greatest threat humanity has ever faced”. The plaintiffs claim that the defendants are well aware of the threat and their contributions to climate change, as they allegedly admitted that their federal oil and gas leasing program is a significant contributor to the global climate crisis, and that their endorsement of the 173 oil projects and gas lease sales will “collectively cause billions of dollars in social and environmental damage to people and the planet.”
The plaintiffs accuse the defendants of having, despite this knowledge, published seven separate environmental assessments in which they asserted that the lease sales would have no significant impact on the environment due to the continued exploitation of fossil fuels. on federal public lands.
The complaint also noted that when President Biden took office in January 2021, he issued an executive order that directed the Interior Department to suspend new oil and gas leases pending review and reconsideration. 11 months later, the Department of the Interior released a report on the federal oil and gas leasing program. The report recommended numerous tax reforms but did not analyze the program’s impacts on the environment.
Following the Interior Department’s decision to continue the lease program, the Bureau of Land Management began approving lease sales, which meant that federal public lands would begin to be used for fossil fuel extraction. .
Greenhouse gas emissions from federal lands used for fossil fuel extraction are significant. The plaintiffs argue that the emissions are “in no way compatible with a carbon budget aimed at limiting [global] warming below critical thresholds, or with meeting U.S. commitments to international agreements such as the Paris Agreement.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires agencies to carefully consider environmental consequences when adopting policies. In addition, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires the Department of the Interior to “consider the long-term needs of future generations” and prevent “permanent degradation of land productivity and quality of land.” the environment “. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to comply with both NEPA and the FLPMA.
The plaintiffs conclude that the defendant’s actions are a “perfect example of the fundamental disconnect between the ongoing climate crisis and the federal defendants’ management of public lands in a manner that prioritizes the exploitation of fossil fuels.”
The complaint cites two NEPA violations and one FLPMA violation. Plaintiffs seek a favorable judgment on each count, for the court to rescind defendants’ rental authorizations and prohibit them from taking any action, an order requiring them to prepare an environmental impact statement, court costs and any other remedy deemed fair by the Search.
Plaintiffs are represented in the litigation by the Western Center for Environmental Law.