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Wildearth Guardians v. BLM

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20115
Nos. 15-8109, (10th Cir., 09/15/2017)

The Tenth Circuit held that BLM's approval of coal leases in the Wyoming Powder River Basin violated NEPA. In its 2010 EIS for the leases, BLM concluded that there was no appreciable difference between the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions under its preferred alternative and the no-action alternative. Further, even if the agency did not approve the proposed leases, the same amount of coal would be sourced from elsewhere, and thus there was no difference between the proposed action and the no-action alternative in this respect. Environmental groups sued, arguing that if the tracts were not leased, it would be very difficult for domestic or international coal mines to replace that quantity of coal at the same price, making other sources of electricity, with lower carbon dioxide emissions rates, more competitive with coal. The court concluded that BLM’s analysis was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of NEPA. The court stated that BLM's theory relied on "irrational" assumptions, therefore, it was an abuse of discretion to rely on an economic assumption that contradicted basic economic principles. BLM was ordered to revise its EIS but the leases were not invalidated.