Suit Seeks to Block Sale of Public Lands to the Oil and Gas Industry

May 16, 2018

Great Falls MT Courthouse.jpg

The Missouri River Federal Courthouse in Great Falls, Montana, where the lawsuit was filed.

Yesterday, Guardians, along with the Montana Environmental Information Center and three local landowners moved to protect Montana’s climate and clean water by filing suit against the Bureau of Land Management for leasing 150,000 acres of public lands for fracking without a complete environmental analysis.

Guardians is being represented by Western Environmental Law Center and Earthjustice.
The lawsuit challenges two oil and gas lease sales in Montana:

  1. The December 2017 sale where the Bureau of Land Management sold almost 100,000 acres in the iconic Tongue River Valley of southeastern Montana and
  2. The March 2018 sale where the agency sold 26,000 acres near Livingston, Montana, the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Front of south central Montana, and a parcel right next to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

(Although the Bureau of Land Management happily withdrew some lease parcels from the March lease sale, they still went ahead and leased a massive chunk of public lands, including parcels not more than 10 miles northwest of Livingston).

Click on the map below to access an interactive version showing exactly where these leases are located and what’s at stake.


As we stated in our press release:

These lease sales are a direct threat to Montana’s future. The BLM’s environmental analysis for the March lease sale completely fails to quantify the very real, direct greenhouse gas emissions that will result from allowing these areas to be drilled and fracked….This head-in-the-sand approach is completely unacceptable and illegal.

– Becca Fischer, Climate and Energy Program Attorney WildEarth Guardians

Oil and gas leasing on federal public lands is a major contributor to global warming in the United States.  Leasing opens the door for oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more fossil fuel burning. Reports indicate that 20% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to fossil fuel development from federal public lands and waters.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Bureau of Land Management failed to ensure that usable water sources are protected from potential contamination from drilling and fracking. According to the complaint:

[a] recent sample of existing oil and gas well records in Montana confirms industry admissions that oil and gas well casing and cementing practices may not protect usable water. Surface casing for the reviewed wells was generally shallow, extending only 288-617 feet below ground, even though the wells themselves extended thousands of feet below ground and through deeper aquifers containing usable water.

– Montana Oil and Gas Leasing Lawsuit

The bottom line is: our climate and clean water are irreplaceable, and Guardians will not stand idly by while Trump and Zinke destroy these resources, whether it’s in Montana or anywhere across the West.

So, we’re taking the fight to the court system. Stay tuned for more information on how our lawsuit proceeds.

Upper Missouri River Breaks BLM Photo 2

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument at risk from fracking. Photo credit: BLM, Flickr.

About the Author

Rebecca Fischer | Climate Guardian, WildEarth Guardians

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