Court Sets Deadline For BLM To Complete Environmental Analysis Of Two Resource Management Plans

Aug 10, 2018

Order delivered July 31st, 2018 from the US District Court For the District of Montana Great Falls Division
Credit US District Court For the District of Montana Great Falls Division

A federal court is ordering the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reanalyze environmental and climate impacts of coal and oil and gas leasing in two field offices by fall of 2019. 

The BLM approved resource management plans (RMP) for the Buffalo, Wyoming field office and the Miles City, Montana field office in 2015. Both are located on the edge of the Powder River Basin. In Wyoming, the plans would have opened up 10.2 billion tons of coal to be mined over 20 years.

The court said in a March decision the RMPs required further NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review. That included a supplementary environmental impact statement. A decision last week from the court said the BLM now has until November 29th, 2019 to put that together.

Jeremy Nichols, a climate and energy program director with WildEarth Guardians, said the original plans opened up as much land as possible to energy. He said that was a problem for environmental groups and the court.

“They basically didn’t even consider making less acres available for coal and oil and gas leasing. To the extent they considered different levels of coal leasing, like in Buffalo, it was very minor, like negligible differences,” Nichols said.

In a press release, the Western Environmental Law Center Attorney Kyle Tisdel reiterated why climate impacts were impossible to avoid in a mineral leasing conversation.

“Considering the scope of these RMPs, which cover an area that produces over 40 percent of the nation’s coal and vast amounts of oil and gas, they represent one of the best opportunities the Department of Interior – and really our country – has to curb runaway climate change,” Tisdel said.

Courtney Whiteman, a public affairs specialist with the BLM, said there was nothing strange in the original report from the agency’s perspective. The plan did follow guidelines set by previous plans. The BLM is now in the process of putting together a supplemental environmental impact statement with a new analysis.