Description: Challenge to sale of oil and gas leases within and affecting sage-grouse habitat and to related Bureau of Land Management guidance.
Western Watersheds Project v. Bernhardt
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 02/27/2020 Memorandum Decision Download Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment granted and federal defendants' and defendant-intervenors' motions for partial summary judgment denied. Idaho Federal Court Set Aside Procedures that Limited Public Participation for Oil and Gas Sales in Sage-Grouse Habitat. A federal court in Idaho set aside procedures issued in 2018 by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as they applied to oil and gas leasing in Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Management Areas. The court also set aside certain oil and gas lease sales that BLM approved in 2018. The court held that BLM’s Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2018-034, which included the procedures, was not properly adopted because notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures should have been followed and that IM 2018-034 itself improperly constrained public participation in oil and gas leasing decisions in violation of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The court therefore found that issuance of IM 2018-034 was arbitrary and capricious. The court’s decision did not address the plaintiffs’ claim that BLM violated NEPA by failing to address likely climate change impacts to the sage-grouse and its habitat. 08/20/2019 Reply Download Reply filed by defendants in support of motion for summary judgment. 09/21/2018 Memorandum Decision Download Motion for preliminary injunction granted. Idaho Federal Court Ordered BLM to Apply 2010 Procedures to Oil and Gas Lease Sale Procedures in Sage-Grouse Habitat. On September 21, 2018, the federal district court for the District of Idaho issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit challenging federal actions that allegedly promote and expedite oil and gas leasing on public lands in violation of federal laws and in contravention of previously agreed-upon protections for the greater sage-grouse. The plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that the defendants violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to address likely climate change impacts to the sage-grouse and its habitat. The plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction concerned only Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2018-034, which replaced an IM issued in 2010. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that IM 2018-034 was procedurally invalid and that it limited public notice of and involvement in decisions regarding oil and gas development and leasing in violation of NEPA and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The court also found that the plaintiffs suffered irreparable harm and that the balance of hardships and public interest favored an injunction requiring the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to follow certain provisions of the 2010 IM (in lieu of IM 2018-034 provisions) starting in the fourth quarter of 2018. The injunction applied only to oil and gas lease sales in the Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Management Areas. 09/04/2018 Memorandum Decision Download Motion to sever and transfer denied. Idaho Federal Court Rejected Defendants’ Effort to Break Apart and Transfer Case Challenging Oil and Gas Lease Sale Procedures in Sage-Grouse Habitat. The federal district court for the District of Idaho denied defendants’ motion to sever and transfer the lawsuit challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's procedures for oil and gas lease sales in greater sage-grouse habitat. The court rejected the defendants’ arguments that the challenges to lease sales should be transferred to the district courts in which the lands subject to the lease sales are located. The court also was not persuaded that claims challenging Instruction Memoranda (IMs) that apply nationwide should be transferred to the District of Montana where other challenges to the IMs were pending. 04/30/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Conservation Organizations Challenged Oil and Gas Leases in Sage-Grouse Habitat. Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint in the federal district court for the District of Idaho asserting that the Trump administration’s sale of hundreds of thousands of acres of oil and gas leases within or affecting sage-grouse habitat violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint alleged that the federal defendants violated NEPA by, among other things, failing to address likely climate change impacts to the sage-grouse and its habitat. The plaintiffs also challenged Bureau of Land Management guidance issued in late 2017 and early 2018.