By CounterPunch News Service
Climate and conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Biden administration’s resumption of oil and gas leasing on public lands, the first auction since the president paused leasing shortly after taking office.
The lawsuit challenges the Department of the Interior and U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) approval of today’s oil and gas lease sales in Montana, North Dakota, Nevada and Utah. These lease auctions will be immediately followed by sales in Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma and Wyoming. Collectively, these sales will open more than 140,000 acres of public land to fossil-fuel production.
“Overwhelming scientific evidence shows us that burning fossil fuels from existing leases on federal lands is incompatible with a livable climate,” said Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “In spite of this administration’s climate commitments, the Department of Interior is choosing to resume oil and gas leasing. The very least the BLM could do is acknowledge the connected nature of these six lease sales and their collective impact on federal lands and the earth’s climate. Its failure to do so is an attempt to water down the climate effects of the decision to continue leasing, and is a clear abdication of BLM’s responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act.”
The groups assert that BLM has violated environmental laws by continuing to authorize fossil fuel extraction on public lands. The challenged lease sales are expected to result in billions of dollars in social and environmental harm, including negative impacts on public health, air and water quality, and local wildlife, such as the embattled greater sage grouse and other endangered species.