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Groups in Montana Demand Public Hearings on Oil and Gas Giveaways

August 30, 2018
Becca Fischer, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
Denver – Today a coalition of conservation groups called on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to hold public hearings on its proposal to lease 102 parcels (69,270 acres) of publicly-owned lands across Montana at the December 11, 2018 oil and gas lease sale.

The sale includes parcels in many sensitive areas that have experienced little to no oil and gas development, including in Beaverhead, Madison, Park, and Lewis and Clark Counties. A map of the parcels is available here.

“The Trump Administration has been rapidly privatizing our federal public lands by selling them to the oil and gas industry at bargain basement prices,” said Becca Fischer, a Climate Guardian with WildEarth Guardians. “And, Trump is doing this at the same time he is cutting the American public out of the comment process. They’ve made it clear that our voices don’t matter. So, we’re pushing back to make sure Montanans are heard.”

“BLM has broad and irreplaceable authority to protect public trust resources from degradation and harm,” said Guy Alsentzer Executive Director of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper. “Our decisionmakers need to listen to local voices and protect Montana’s special places from the unnecessary risk and pollution impacts posed by industrial oil and gas development.”

The coalition submitted comments on the proposed leases on August 23, 2018. The groups had 15 days to review a 73-page environmental assessment and 5 appendices. A public hearing would provide more time for concerned members of the public in Montana to meaningfully engage in leasing decisions that will impact future generations.

“Rushing through dirty fuel development has serious consequences for community, economic and environmental health. These are public lands, not industry chits. The public has a right to provide input on decisions that threaten their quality of life, and the government has a responsibility to provide opportunities for that input including a public hearing,” said Bonnie Rice of Sierra Club’s Greater Yellowstone campaign.

“BLM employees presented at a public meeting here in Livingston, Montana, last winter about a proposed lease sale in our backyard,” said Michelle Uberuaga, Executive Director for Park County Environmental Council. “People showed up and shared their concerns; the BLM heard our concerns and deferred leases in sensitive areas. That’s how it should work. We hope that we can see similar efforts to engage local communities in leasing decisions around the state.”

Since taking office, the Trump Administration and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke have been methodically cutting the public out of the oil and gas leasing decisionmaking process. In January 2018, the Bureau of Land Management issued guidance (Instruction Memorandum 2018-034) slashing protest periods from 30 to 10 days and making public comment periods on environmental analyses optional.

Meanwhile, the pace of federal public lands approved for oil and gas leasing by the BLM continues to drastically increase in 2018 and is on track to more than triple the amount of acreage sold last year. In 2017, the BLM auctioned off more than one million acres of public lands for fracking in six Western states. To date, the BLM’s proposed lease sales for 2018 in those same states total 3.8 million acres, an area three times the Grand Canyon National Park.

“Leasing for oil and gas development is occurring at breakneck speed,” said Anne Hedges, Deputy Director and Lead Lobbyist for MEIC. “Communities and area residents deserve to know and have a voice in this onslaught. Oil and gas development could affect Montanans air and water quality, water quantity, property values, and landscapes. Zinke should come to the meetings himself and listen to people’s concerns.”

The groups signing the request include: WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Montana Environmental Information Center, Park County Environmental Council, Preserve the Beartooth Front, Sierra Club, and Upper Missouri Waterkeeper.

Other Contact
Guy Alsentzer, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, (406) 570-2202, Guy@uppermissouriwaterkeeper.org, Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 519-8449, virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org, Michelle Uberuaga, Park County Environmental Council, (406) 223-4714, michelle@envirocouncil.org, Anne Hedges, Montana Environmental Information Center, (406) 443-2520, ahedges@meic.org