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Environmentalists’ Lawsuit Tries to Block Federal Oil and Gas Drilling Leases

June 17, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
(Photo by David Thielen via UnSplash)

WASHINGTON — An environmentalists’ lawsuit filed this week in Washington, D.C., seeks to block the Biden administration from giving oil companies more than 3,500 permits to drill on federal lands. 

The coalition of environmental groups says Biden has not considered the effects on climate change and endangered species.

Biden has said he largely agrees oil and gas drilling leases should be halted but has been stopped from implementing his eco-friendly plans by the oil industry and legal challenges in predominantly Republican states.

He also acknowledges economic pressure to allow drilling. Gasoline prices reached record levels this month while economists warn that recession is near.

“While Biden made campaign promises to end new oil and gas leasing and drilling on public lands and oceans, that has not been the case since taking office,” Wendy Leung, spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Well News.

The plaintiffs, which consist of three environmental groups, allege violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

“The drilling of these oil and gas wells will likely emit 490-600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas pollution over the course of their lifespans, equivalent to the annual emissions of between 131-161 coal-fired power plants,” says their lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

It adds, “A large and growing number of U.S. endangered species are being pushed towards extinction primarily by climate change.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Bureau of Land Management to preempt an auction this month of drilling leases in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Their efforts are opposed by the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group representing about 200 companies in the oil and gas industry. The group said the leases are allowed only after a rigorous analysis to ensure the environmental impact would be minimal.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement that the environmental groups that are suing “will not be satisfied until federal oil and natural gas is shut down completely, yet that option is not supported by law.”

She added, “They’re trying to use the courts to deny Americans energy and drive up prices because they can’t convince Congress to change the law. Shutting down federal oil and natural gas does nothing to address climate change, but merely shifts the production to private lands or overseas.” 

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management have declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Dept. of Interior and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 1:22-cv-1716, filed June 15, 2022.

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com and @TomRamstack

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