Preserving Wyoming's Public Lands

Preserving Wyoming’s Public Lands

Preserving Wyoming’s Public Lands

In June 2022, President Biden administration’s opened nearly 120,000 acres of Wyoming public lands to oil and gas drilling. This was the largest public lands oil and gas lease sale offered at the time. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) moved forward with the sale despite acknowledging the harmful costs of the greenhouse gas pollution it would wreak. So we took them to court.

We teamed up with Earthjustice and the Wilderness Society and filed a lawsuit arguing that the Wyoming lease sale violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act by moving forward with the sale while failing to take into account the costs on climate, groundwater, and wildlife.

Holding a large lease sale boosts profits for fossil fuel executives. And it harms nearly everyone else. BLM moved forward with the lease sale despite known risks to drinking water, wildlife, and the climate. The agency failed to properly take into consideration how drilling would harm local wildlife like the sage grouse and the mule deer — species whose habitat would be destroyed by drilling. Drilling also impacts groundwater as it can deplete groundwater, contaminate aquifers with drilling fluids, and disrupt local ecosystems. Evidence shows that BLM doesn’t even enforce its own regulations when it comes to keeping underground sources of drinking water safe from pollution.

Further, BLM admitted that the greenhouse gas pollution stemming from the leases could result in billions of dollars in social and environmental harm. Yet the agency said it would not factor those costs into its decision and pushed the sale forward.

The court found BLM’s decision illegal.

Thanks to our lawsuit, we have set an important precedent for protecting local species and communities from the widespread harms that drilling can bring about. This is another strong step forward in forcing BLM to fully account for what its oil and gas program means for the environment. 

Currently, the oil and gas industry holds nearly 25 million acres of existing leases on our public lands and is sitting on more than 9,000 approved permits to drill that are not even being used. This is a broken program that there is no actual demand or need for.

This ruling underscores that federal agencies cannot simply ignore climate, wildlife, and water impacts when analyzing risks. This should be another wake up call for BLM to address the damage that federal oil and gas development has caused. We will continue our fight to make fossil fuel leasing on public lands a thing of the past.

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