In the latest Colorado turf battle between the oil and gas industry and environmentalists, conservation groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in an effort to stop production on a swath of land roughly a million acres in size.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Wilderness Society and the Wilderness Workshop are pushing for an analysis of the climate risk associated with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan for development that covers 935,600 acres of public lands in western Colorado. The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
The area surrounds the BLM’s planned new headquarters and is part of a resource management plan for Grand Junction, CO.
“There are already more fossil fuels being developed in the world than can be safely burned,” said CBD senior attorney Diana Dascalu-Joffe. “It’s reckless to shrug off the damage massive new oil and gas extraction will do to our rapidly warming planet.”
In 2016, BLM approved a 20-year plan allocating the acreage for oil and gas leasing. It predicted at the time that roughly 4,000 new oil and gas wells would come online as a result, according to the lawsuit.
“BLM has failed to account for the climate impacts of oil and gas leasing for far too long,” said attorney Julia Guarino of the Western Environmental Law Center. “And despite several court decisions making it clear that this failure is illegal, the BLM continues to allow oil and gas leasing to go forward without considering the climate impacts.”
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of challenges to BLM leases in the state.
“The lands at issue are a remarkable resource for wildlife as well as many hunters, bikers, hikers and other recreationists throughout the nation,” said Wilderness Society’s Phil Hanceford, conservation director. “These lands deserve a more thorough look at what is at stake from a changing climate to better inform our management decisions to make public lands part of the climate solution.”
Also in 2016, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility filed a challenge to BLM leases in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenged 397 oil and gas leases sold in 10 sales covering 379,950 acres of public lands. Last year, some of the same plaintiffs involved in the latest complaint were part of another lawsuit challenging the BLM’s approval of oil and gas development on more than 45,000 acres in western Colorado.