The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to incorporate potential climate impacts into a revamped resource management plan (RMP) for oil and gas leasing in western Colorado that covers nearly one million acres.

Bureau of Land Management

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado last week approved the Interior Department agency’s request to remand the 20-year RMP issued in 2016 for the Grand Junction Field Office.

The BLM’s RMP at that time had allocated 935,600 acres for oil and gas leasing to develop nearly 4,000 wells. In 2019, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Wilderness Society and the Wilderness Workshop filed the lawsuit requesting the RMP be thrown out so that a climate risk analysis could be conducted (No. 19-cv-02869). 

BLM last year had asked the court for permission to remand the RMP so that it could conduct a supplemental analysis.
While BLM agreed to revamp the RMP, District Court Senior Judge Robert Blackburn indicated that the federal agency could face more challenges once the supplemental analysis is completed.

“I find that efficient resolution of this controversy may require additional litigation in this case following the remand and the supplemental analysis by the respondents,” wrote Blackburn. “With that possibility in mind, the court will grant the motion for remand and close this case administratively, subject to reopening for good cause.”

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Conservation groups had prevailed in a similar lawsuit challenging BLM’s failure to analyze potential climate impacts for a 2015 Colorado River Valley RMP adjacent to the Grand Junction RMP.

“With this remand, the agency has another chance to ensure the spectacular BLM wildlands surrounding Grand Junction aren’t simply handed over to the fossil fuel industry,” said Wilderness Workshop staff attorney Peter Hart.CBD’s senior campaigner Taylor McKinnon said BLM officials for too long had “willfully ignored the fact that federal fossil fuel programs conflict with U.S. climate goals. This order sends them back to the drawing board. New oil and gas leases don’t fit with the Biden administration’s goals to transition to clean energy and conserve 30% of public lands and waters by 2030. Our rapidly warming planet just can’t afford it.”