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Western Organization of Resource Councils v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20044
Nos. 4:16-cv-00021, (D. Mont., 03/26/2018) (Morris, J.)

A district court held that BLM violated NEPA by failing to adequately consider climate change in the resource management plans (RMPs) for Buffalo, Wyoming, and Miles City, Montana, both located within the coal-rich Powder River Basin. BLM's EISs failed to consider any alternative that would decrease the amount of extractable coal available for leasing. Climate change concerns presented a reasonable basis for BLM to consider adopting an RMP that foreclosed coal extraction in additional areas. Without such consideration, BLM could not make a reasoned choice as to whether foreclosing additional development would serve its multiple use mandate and address concerns that may arise from the changing conditions that spurred the RMP revision, including climate change. Accordingly, BLM violated NEPA in this regard. In addition, BLM must supplement the Miles City EIS and Buffalo EIS with an analysis of the environmental consequences of downstream combustion of coal, oil, and gas open to development under each RMP. The specific projections in the RMPs of the amounts of resources to be extracted, and their foreseeable uses, makes such analysis reasonably possible. BLM also violated NEPA by failing to justify its use of "global warming potentials" based on a 100-year time horizon rather than the 20-year time horizon of the RMPs, and by failing to acknowledge evolving science. But BLM reasonably considered methane mitigation measures. Nor does NEPA require BLM to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of potential climate change impacts outside of the geographic reach of the RMPs. And BLM’s reliance on the NAAQS in its air quality analyses did not violate NEPA.