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Wildearth Guardians v. Zinke

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20041
Nos. 16-1724 (RC), (D.D.C., 03/19/2019) (Contreras, J.)

A district court granted in part environmental groups' motion for summary judgment in a challenge to BLM authorization of oil and gas leasing on federal land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The groups argued that the EAs and FONSIs issued violated NEPA because BLM failed to take a "hard look" at the impacts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change resulting from the lease sales. The court concluded that BLM did not take a hard look at drilling-related and downstream GHG emissions from the leased parcels, and failed to sufficiently compare those emissions to regional and national emissions. The groups also argued that BLM arbitrarily dismissed the need to analyze cumulative GHG impacts by failing to use certain protocols to quantify the climate change impact of GHG emissions from the leased parcels. The court found that NEPA required the agency to undertake a more robust discussion of GHG emissions at the leasing stage than it undertook in this instance, but that its decision to forgo the protocols' use did not violate NEPA. The court therefore granted in part the groups' motion, remanded to BLM to address the deficiencies in its EAs and FONSIs, and enjoined the agency from issuing drilling permits or otherwise authorizing new drilling on the leased parcels until those deficiencies are addressed.