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Environmental groups sue BLM over Colorado oil and gas development plan that ‘ignores a climate emergency’

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By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

Environmental groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to intervene in a western Colorado oil and gas development plan by requiring a climate risk analysis for the project. 

The Center for Biological Diversity, The Wilderness Society and Wilderness Workshop filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit lists the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley and other BLM officials as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges that the environmental impacts – such as increased greenhouse gas emissions due to energy development – from the approved plan were not properly analyzed, and that approval of the plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act. 

“This plan ignores a climate emergency that gets worse every time the Trump administration OKs more drilling and fracking,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are already more fossil fuels being developed in the world than can be safely burned. It’s reckless to shrug off the damage massive new oil and gas extraction will do to our rapidly warming planet.”

The BLM’s approved Grand Junction resource management plan details how the federal agency manages over one million acres of public federal land in Garfield, Mesa, Montrose and Rio Blanco counties. The plan also allows over 900,000 acres of land to be leased for oil and gas development. 

“The adverse impacts from BLM’s process and decision threaten actual, imminent, concrete, and particularized harm” to the groups and their members, the lawsuit alleges.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups previously sued the BLM over approved lease sales in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The BLM said it could not comment on the pending lawsuit.

The BLM, which manages over 245 million acres of federal public land nationally, said it received $5.75 million for lease sales in Colorado in 2018, and oil and gas development on public lands in the state has contributed an estimated $6.9 billion to the economy. 

The federal agency says the state of Colorado receives 48 percent of revenues from oil and gas lease sales on public land.