A federal judge has overturned the Trump administration’s scheme to lease more than 60,000 acres of public land to the oil and gas industry in northeast Utah’s Uinta Basin, ruling that the Bureau of Land Management violated the law by refusing to consider alternatives to leasing all 59 parcels. The leased area includes land near Dinosaur National Monument, where more than 300,000 visitors a year come to experience the expansive views, untouched landscape, and dark night skies.
“This is a victory for the American West’s iconic parks and monuments, as well as another win for climate and clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ climate and energy program director. “Importantly, it’s another stinging rejection of the Trump administration’s illegal attempts to sell out our legacy of public lands to the oil and gas industry.”
Oil and gas operations are the largest human-made source of air and climate pollution in the Uinta Basin, plaguing this once-pristine rural region with air pollution comparable to that of Los Angeles and Denver. Elevated levels of ozone pollution endanger human health, causing asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. It’s particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations, including children, seniors, and people with respiratory conditions. Air pollution from oil and gas drilling in the region already worsens visibility, stunts vegetation growth, and harms delicate ecosystems.
The successful lawsuit was filed by WildEarth Guardians, Rocky Mountain Wild, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Center for Biological Diversity, with legal representation provided by Earthjustice.
Just this year, together with your support, legal challenges by WildEarth Guardians and our allies have successfully saved close to 2 million acres of public lands from fracking across the American West. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and waters when he takes office January 20, 2021. A new day is coming and a greener future is possible, so please take action and urge President-elect Biden to keep his promise to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground.