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WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20106
Nos. CV-18-73-GF-BMM, (D. Mont., 05/01/2020) (Morris, J.)

A district court vacated 287 oil and gas leases that BLM issued on 145,000 acres of federal land in Montana. Environmental groups argued that the agency violated NEPA by failing to consider the leases' impacts on groundwater from shallow fracturing and surface casing depth. The court found that the agency had information available to it at the leasing stage to provide some forecast about how shallow fracturing and surface casing depth would affect groundwater, and that it failed to take a hard look at these impacts. The groups next argued that BLM failed to consider reasonable alternatives that would lessen the impacts to the state's groundwater supply. The court found that the agency failed to provide an adequate explanation for why it did not consider the groups' proposed alternatives and thus failed to satisfy NEPA. The groups also argued that BLM failed to consider the combined impacts on climate change of the lease sales as a whole. The court found that the agency quantified anticipated greenhouse gas emissions, but failed to show how the lease sales cumulatively affected the environment. It therefore vacated the leases and remanded to BLM for further analysis.