WW recently won an important victory in Federal District Court. A lawsuit filed by WW with the Western Environmental Law Center, Western Colorado Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club challenged BLM’s 2015 Resource Management Plan (the plan) for the Colorado River Valley Field Office (CRVFO). The suit contested the plan’s prioritization of oil and gas development over all other uses, as well as BLM’s failure to consider the climate impacts of drilling thousands of new gas wells on our local public lands.
BLM’s plan left the vast majority of the Field Office open to oil and gas leasing and development, including areas where the agency expects no development to occur. The agency chose to close just 2,500 acres in areas with high occurrence potential for oil and gas. The plan created a presumption that oil and gas can and should be the dominant use, even in places where other incompatible values exist and areas where BLM has concluded that oil and gas development is unlikely.
BLM also refused to consider the downstream impacts that drilling thousands of new gas wells would have on our climate. Climate impacts of fossil fuel extraction are a big problem, especially now that the Trump Administration is rolling back any and all regulations aimed at mitigating those impacts. Without regulations in place to reduce impacts of development, like BLM’s methane waste rule that was recently rescinded, burning natural gas doesn’t look that much better than coal in terms of its impact on climate.
The Court agreed with us on several counts finding that BLM failed to adequately consider the climate impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions from transport and consumption of oil and gas. The Court found the agency also failed to consider any alternatives that would meaningfully limit oil and gas drilling in its planning process. The judge ordered the BLM to consult with WW and other plaintiffs to work out a remedy, which we’ll be doing in coming weeks.
This decision is a big win for those of us who believe that we need to consider all of the impacts of developing natural gas, including transporting and burning it. The ruling also confirms that BLM should not prioritize oil and gas development over all other uses on our public lands. The full implications of this victory haven’t been ironed out, but rest assured that we will continue to fight for more thoughtful and informed decision-making on our beloved public lands.