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Environment & Energy Report

Million-Acre Oil Lease Plan Contested by Green Group (1)

Oct. 8, 2019, 7:33 PMUpdated: Oct. 8, 2019, 7:41 PM

The Interior Department failed to analyze the cumulative impact that new fossil fuel exploration on a million acres of federally managed land in Colorado will have on the climate, the Center for Biological Diversity said in an Oct. 8 lawsuit.

Although the Bureau of Land Management acknowledges the adverse impacts of pollution and climate change traceable to human activity, it fails to officially analyze such possibilities in the environmental impact statement that the agency is using to support the historic lease sale plan in the Grand Junction area, the new suit says.

The agency, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, has failed to take a hard look at the indirect and cumulative environmental impacts that can’t be avoided should the Grand Junction leases go forward, the environmental group says.

The BLM expects the Grand Junction leases will result in the drilling of 3,900 wells over the next 20 years, the Center says in its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

The agency is also accused of failing to meaningfully consider alternatives for the Grand Junction planning area that would provide for limited oil and gas development in western Colorado, which the Center says is particularly vulnerable to periods of drought and record high temperatures.

Causes of Action: National Environmental Policy Act.

Relief Requested: Declaration that the agency has violated NEPA; vacatur of actions relying on the environmental impact statement; enjoin BLM from approving oil or gas development until the agency complies with NEPA; costs and other relief the court deems appropriate.

Response: The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Attorneys: The Western Environmental Law Center, the Wilderness Workshop, and in-house counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity represent the environmental groups.

The case is Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., D. Colo., No. 19-cv-02869, complaint filed 10/8/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com