Environmental groups sue Biden administration over western drilling permits

Three environmental organizations on Wednesday sued the Biden administration for granting thousands of fossil fuel drilling permits, alleging the permits violate federal law.

In the lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, plaintiffs accused the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of violating the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by granting 3,500 permits in Wyoming and New Mexico.

The plaintiffs — the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center — argue that the wells in question are an imminent threat to their respective ecosystems and more than 150 at-risk species.

The plaintiffs project the completed wells will emit between 490 million and 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over their lifetime. In an email to The Hill, Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity said the figure is based on the BLM’s state-specific per-well estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) and emissions estimates.

As a result, the lawsuit claims, granting the permits violated the Endangered Species Act’s requirement that federal agencies avoid increasing the danger to threatened and endangered species. In addition, President Biden signed an executive order shortly after his inauguration requiring agencies to follow best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, meanwhile, requires the BLM to act against any unnecessary degradation of public lands.

“Fossil fuels are driving the extinction crisis, and the Bureau of Land Management is making things worse by failing to protect these imperiled species,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The agency’s cursory approval of more than 3,500 drilling permits contradicts President Biden’s pledges to address the terrifying threat of climate change. Every new well takes polar bears and many other species one step closer to extinction.”

The Interior Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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