Conservation Groups Sue Agencies Over Drilling Permits

Conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of the Interior and its secretary and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its director, alleging the defendants are in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) through their approval of drilling permits.

According to the complaint, the BLM approved over 3,500 application permits to drill (APD) which would likely emit 490-600 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere; the complaint alleges that the BLM failed to evaluate the significant environmental impact these approved APDs would have.

In failing to consider this impact, the BLM has allegedly violated the law; for instance, the agency purportedly failed to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on the effect the emissions will have on the species protected by the ESA.

The complaint also alleges that the BLM violated FLPMA by failing to consider the prevention of undue degradation of public lands due to the approved drilling. The BLM has also failed to consider environmental justice under NEPA; communities nationwide are likely to have disproportionate and adverse effects from climate change, specifically the authorized drilling by BLM.

The plaintiffs seek the following for relief: declarations that the defendants’ drilling permits violate NEPA, ESA, and FLPMA, the vacation of the defendants’ drilling permits, the enjoinment preventing the defendants from approving any drilling permits until they are in compliance with the law, and awards of fees and costs.

The plaintiffs are represented by Western Environmental Law Center and their in-house counsel.