Bureau of Land Management Sued Over Alaskan Oil Exploration Approval

A trio of environmental advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of the Interior, and officials with those agencies Thursday, alleging that the agencies produced environmental assessments for Alaskan oil drilling that do not meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“This is a case about BLM’s decision to approve an oil and gas exploration program in furtherance of future oil development, a major source of climate pollution, without adequate discussion or analysis of the exploration program’s impacts on climate change,” the organizations wrote in their complaint.

The plaintiffs are the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace. They are represented by Earthjustice.

The case concerns drilling permits on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The organizations describe the area as a 23-million-acre economically important region, home to unique landscape and species. The plaintiffs object to the Bureau’s approval of a five-year exploration project without considering greenhouse gas emissions. For a second claim of releif, the organizations allege that the agency did not comply with a requirement that they provide a detailed statement regarding “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

“BLM was provided with new information and data relevant to its decision concerning downstream greenhouse gas emissions that could result from its approval of the five-year program,” the complaint says, but the agency did not supplement its assessments based on that information.

The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment in their favor, an injucntion blocking the exploration activities at issue until the agency is in compliance with the statute, and vacatur of defendants’ approval of the program, as well as costs.