Serving Energy Industries Nationwide

Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Win

A Washington D.C. federal judge upheld the Bureau of Land Management’s greenhouse gas and climate impact analysis, conducted in connection with six 2022 federal onshore oil and gas lease sales. A coalition of environmental plaintiff organizations sued to challenge several aspects of the lease sales, seeking to: (1) set aside BLM’s environmental analyses; (2) require BLM to issue an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the challenged lease sales; and (3) to prevent all development of the leases pending BLM’s issuance, and the Court’s approval, of the EIS. The court denied all of Plaintiffs’ requests for relief.

This decision reinforces the parameters and limits of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis that BLM is required to conduct regarding greenhouse gas emissions and climate change for oil and gas leasing, particularly regarding the use of social cost of carbon and carbon budget tools.

BLM conducted the challenged oil and gas lease sales in Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Colorado. Judge Cooper held that the agency’s “fulsome treatment” of greenhouse gas emissions satisfied BLM’s obligations to analyze the cumulative impact of the lease sales under NEPA.

The court declined to “flyspeck the Bureau’s analysis” in an area of complex judgment, where the agency is “owed an extreme degree of deference when assessing NEPA compliance.” The Court also held that BLM was not required to analyze the six lease sales together under a single, programmatic EIS where the BLM “adequately explained that a programmatic review of all six leas sales was impracticable and of limited value. . ..”  Finally, the Court found that the lease sales did not violate the unnecessary and undue degradation standard of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act.

A copy of the decision is available here.

For more information on this decision, please contact Bret Sumner and Malinda Morain, who represented Western Energy Alliance as a Defendant-Intervenor in this case.