Description: Lawsuit alleging that the Department of Transportation and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration unlawfully failed to cause annual examinations of oil and gas pipelines on public lands.
WildEarth Guardians v. Chao
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 04/15/2020 Order Download Federal defendants' cross motion for summary judgment granted. Montana Federal Court Said WildEarth Guardians Did Not Have “Failure to Act” Claim to Compel Pipeline Inspections. The federal district court for the District of Montana “reluctantly” concluded that it could not compel the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to comply with a Mineral Leasing Act directive to cause inspection of all federal pipelines on federal lands at least once annually. The court found that because PHMSA had “taken some steps, limited as they may be,” to address this statutory obligation, the plaintiff could not bring a challenge under the Administrative Procedure Act’s “failure to act” provision in Section 706(1). 05/23/2019 Order Download Motion to dismiss denied. Lawsuit Challenging Federal Failure to Inspect Pipelines Survived Motion to Dismiss. The federal district court for the District of Montana denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to compel the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and other federal defendants to perform inspections of oil and gas pipelines required by the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA). The plaintiff, WildEarth Guardians, alleges, among other things, that pipeline spills contribute to climate change. The court found that WildEarth Guardians had alleged a sufficiently particularized injury to survive a challenge to its standing. The court also concluded that a court order could redress the alleged injury and that the plaintiff had adequately stated a failure-to-act claim under the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition, the court concluded it was appropriate to exercise jurisdiction to consider the “narrow issue” of whether the defendants had failed to comply with their duty under the MLA given the lack of an administrative record or any activity before PHMSA that could provide a basis for review in the Ninth Circuit pursuant to the Pipeline Safety Act of 1979, which provides for exclusive review in the courts of appeals. 08/14/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. WildEarth Guardians’ Lawsuit in Montana Federal Court Alleged Federal Failure to Cause Examinations of Pipelines. WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of Transportation, the Department of Transportation, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the PHMSA administrator asserting that they violated the Mineral Leasing Act by failing to cause annual examinations of oil and gas pipelines and associated facilities on public lands. The complaint included allegations regarding health impacts of pipeline spills and failures as well as a catalog of recent pipeline failures in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The plaintiffs alleged that the spills result in both contamination on the ground and “also contribute to climate change because natural gas is primarily composed of methane[,] … a potent greenhouse gas.”