Description: Lawsuit challenging approval of oil and gas leases in five western states.
WildEarth Guardians v. Haaland
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/01/2022 Memorandum Opinion Download Plaintiff's motion to voluntarily dismiss granted, American Petroleum Institute's and federal defendants' motions to dismiss denied as moot, and federal defendants' motion to remand denied as moot. After Settlement Reached, Federal Court Granted Conservation Groups’ Requests for Dismissal of Challenges to Oil and Gas Leases in Western States. In three lawsuits brought by conservation groups to challenge oil and gas leases on federal land in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, the federal district court for the District of Columbia granted the conservation groups’ motions for voluntary dismissal with prejudice after the groups and the federal defendants reached agreements to settle the three cases. Under the agreements, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will conduct additional National Environmental Policy Act analysis, consistent with the court’s earlier decisions that found flaws in BLM’s analysis of the leases’ impacts on climate change. In its decision granting voluntary dismissal, the court found that the plaintiffs sought voluntary dismissal in good faith and that industry defendant-intervenors did not establish that voluntary dismissal would result in clear legal prejudice to them (or undue prejudice, if reviewed under the standard for voluntary remand, as the intervenors argued). Having granted voluntary dismissal, the court denied as moot federal defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, federal defendants’ motions to remand, and intervenors’ motions to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds. 05/05/2022 Reply Download Reply filed by federal defendants in support of their motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3). 04/25/2022 Opposition Download Opposition to motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction filed by intervenor-defendants American Petroleum Institute and State of Wyoming. 04/11/2022 Motion to Dismiss Download Motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3) filed by federal defendants. 03/25/2022 Reply Download Reply filed to intervenor-defendants' opposition to motion for voluntary dismissal. 03/22/2022 Status Report Download Joint status report filed regarding parties' positions on the mootness of federal defendants' motion to remand. 03/18/2022 Opposition Download Opposition filed by intervenor-defendants American Petroleum Institute and State of Wyoming to motion for voluntary dismissal. 03/04/2022 Motion Download Motion for voluntary dismissal filed by plaintiffs. 03/04/2022 Settlement Agreement Download Stipulated settlement agreement filed. The plaintiffs and federal defendants filed a stipulated settlement agreement pursuant to which the federal defendants agreed to conduct additional NEPA analysis of the three remaining leasing decisions. 03/03/2022 Status Report Download Joint status report filed. 10/20/2021 Order Plaintiffs and federal defendants ordered to file a joint status report by November 3, 2021 on the status of settlement negotiations. 08/13/2021 Opposition Download Opposition filed by intervenor-defendants American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance to plaintiffs' motion to stay. 08/13/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by plaintiffs to opposition of intervenor-defendants American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance to motion for stay. 08/13/2021 Response Download Response filed by intervenor-defendants American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance to defendants' motion for voluntary remand. 08/10/2021 Motion Download Motion to stay proceedings filed by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs Reported Agreement in Principle Regarding Settlement of Challenges to Oil and Gas Lease Sales in Western U.S.. In three cases challenging oil and gas lease sales in the western United States, the plaintiffs asked the federal district court for the District of Columbia to stay the proceedings for 60 days to facilitate a negotiated final resolution of the cases. They reported that they had reached “an agreement in principle on a framework for a settlement agreement that would result in the stipulated dismissal” of the cases. The federal defendants did not oppose the motion, but certain intervenors opposed the stays on the grounds that challenges to some of the lease sales were untimely and that the court therefore should resolve intervenor American Petroleum Institute’s motions to dismiss those claims in the interests of vindicating the purposes served by the Mineral Leasing Act’s 90-day limitations period for review of decisions involving oil and gas leases. The federal defendants previously sought voluntary remand of the cases. 08/02/2021 Motion to Dismiss Download Motion to dismiss in part filed by intervenor-defendant American Petroleum Institute. American Petroleum Institute filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that challenges to some of the leases in the lawsuit were time-barred. 07/30/2021 Motion Download Second motion for voluntary remand without vacatur filed by federal defendants. BLM Sought Remand Without Vacatur of NEPA Documents in Western State Oil and Gas Leasing Challenges. On July 30, 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) asked the federal district court for the District of Columbia for voluntary remand without vacatur of environmental assessments and findings of no significant impact in three cases challenging oil and gas lease sales in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The cases were filed in 2016, 2020, and 2021. The federal defendants told the court that they had determined that remand was appropriate to allow additional analysis under NEPA in light of the court’s November 2020 decision in the 2016 case that found shortcomings in the analysis of greenhouse gas emission associated with the Wyoming leases at issue in that case. The federal defendants asserted that remand without vacatur was appropriate because there was “at least a serious possibility” that BLM would be able to substantiate its decision on remand, because the court lacked authority to order vacatur without an independent determination that the leasing decisions did not comply with NEPA, and because the plaintiffs and intervenors would have an opportunity to challenge any decisions the agency made on remand. American Petroleum Institute, which intervened as a defendant in all three cases, filed motions to dismiss in the 2020 and 2021 lawsuits, arguing that challenges to most of the leases in the lawsuit were time-barred. 10/23/2020 Order Download Federal defendants' motion for voluntary remand without vacatur granted. Federal Court Approved Voluntary Remand of Decisions on Oil and Gas Leases for Additional NEPA Review. The federal district court for the District of Columbia granted BLM’s and federal officials’ motion for voluntary remand without vacatur of claims that they failed to comply with NEPA in connection with 27 oil and gas leasing decisions across Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Montana between September 2016 and March 2019. BLM approved these leases prior to the court’s decision in March 2019 finding that BLM’s analysis of the climate change impacts of certain other oil and gas leases in Wyoming was insufficient. The federal defendants in the instant case said they had concluded that further analysis under NEPA was appropriate for all but three of the leasing decisions. The plaintiffs did not object to remand, but they urged the court to remand with vacatur. The court rejected this option, saying that it had not basis for vacatur since it had not reviewed the underlying environmental assessments and related decision documents underlying the leasing decisions. The court also noted that the plaintiffs had not filed a motion for preliminary injunction. 09/21/2020 Reply Download Reply filed by federal defendants in support of motion for voluntary remand without vacatur. 09/14/2020 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs to federal defendants' motion for voluntary remand. 09/11/2020 Motion Download Motion for voluntary remand without vacatur and memorandum in support filed by federal defendants. 04/28/2020 Motion to Intervene Download Motion for leave to intervene as a defendant filed by American Petroleum Institute. 01/09/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. New Lawsuit Challenging Oil and Gas Leases in Western States Alleged “Fundamental Disconnect” Between Climate Crisis and Federal Leasing Program. WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility filed a complaint in the federal district court for the District of Columbia challenging BLM’s approval of 2,067 oil and gas leases covering almost two million acres of public lands across five states—Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The plaintiffs alleged that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider “the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of oil and gas leasing on our climate.” They contended that BLM’s process for reviewing the leases was at odds with the court’s decision in another case involving BLM’s authorization of 282 leases and that the case showed the “fundamental disconnect between the ongoing climate crisis and the federal oil and gas leasing program.”