Two environmental groups filed a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit challenging a 2022 oil and gas lease sale in Wyoming held by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management.
The Wilderness Society and Friends of the Earth contend the bureau violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it held the June 2022 Wyoming oil and gas lease sale with minimal environmental review. The lawsuit, Wilderness Society v. Haaland, was filed in June in US District Court for the District of Columbia.
The sale was conducted alongside sales in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and New Mexico after a court ordered the Biden administration to end its pause on oil and gas leasing, a key element of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda.
The Wyoming auction was many times larger than the sales in the other five states, where the bureau auctioned 3,624 acres in all the states combined.
Drilling rights to nearly 120,000 acres of federal land in Wyoming were auctioned to oil and gas companies during the lease sale. The bureau received bids for leases spanning much smaller area—67,627 acres. The leases were sold for $12.9 million.
The Interior Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
“In most parts of the country, BLM exercised restraint and offered smaller amounts of acreage for lease. Not so in Wyoming: there, BLM offered for lease more than thirteen times as many acres as it offered in all other states combined,” the environmental groups say in a memo filed in their motion for summary judgment.
The leases sold “jeopardize drinking water sources, threaten wildlife, and will lead to enormous social costs due to increased greenhouse gas emissions,” the memo says.
The groups claim that the bureau acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it offered large acreages for lease, and are asking the court to set aside the sale because they say it violated NEPA.
The case is Wilderness Society v. Haaland, D.D.C., 1:22-cv-01871, 3/23/23.
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