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During Shutdown, Trump Urged to Halt Fracking Permits, 2 Million-acre Lease Sale

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2019

Contacts: Rebecca Fischer, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org
Kelly Fuller, Western Watersheds Project, (928) 322-8449, kfuller@westernwatersheds.org
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414, tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON― Conservation groups today called on the Trump administration to halt oil and gas drilling permits and cancel lease sales being developed during the government shutdown, saying they violate federal law. Auctions scheduled in February and March span six states and 2.3 million acres of public lands ― the largest quarterly lease sales in at least a decade.

“It’s absolutely outrageous, not to mention illegal, that Trump is rolling out the red carpet for the oil and gas industry while the American people can’t even reach an agency staffer by phone,” said Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy program attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “We’ve been completely shut out of decisions affecting our public lands, and we won’t stand for it.”

Issuing drilling permits during the shutdown violates the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the groups said in a letter to acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The public can’t view or provide feedback on new permits or environmental reviews since the Bureau of Land Management’s offices are closed and agency scientists furloughed.

The furloughs have also halted any work on whether environmental analysis should be required before issuing drilling permits or leasing public land for fracking. The BLM has posted public notice of at least 127 new drilling-permit applications in several states during the shutdown.

“The Trump administration is trying to use the government shutdown to do an end run around the laws that protect our air, water, and wildlife,” said Kelly Fuller, energy and mining campaign director at Western Watersheds Project. “But the Department of the Interior can’t hide forever. Sooner or later they are going to have to start talking to the public, and the longer they wait to do it, the more lawbreaking they’ll have to explain.”

Issuing drilling permits during the shutdown also violates the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits work without pay in the absence of congressional appropriations except to protect life or property. The BLM cannot require its employees to work without pay to approve drilling permits for the oil and gas industry, the groups said.

“The only thing trashier than our national parks during this shutdown has been the Trump administration’s coddling of the oil industry,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Furloughed federal workers can’t pay their mortgages, but Trump is hellbent on ensuring profits for fossil-fuel corporations. Not one new lease or drilling permit should be allowed under these conditions.”

The groups are calling on the BLM to halt February and March oil and gas lease sales in Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Montana. Furloughed biological- and cultural-resource specialists cannot evaluate public comments on those sales, conduct environmental reviews or consult with tribes as required by law.

Citing similar reasons, a second coalition of conservation groups today also called on Bernhardt to cancel those sales.

According to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, if all the parcels offered in the February and March sales were developed, it would create up to 407 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution. That’s the equivalent of the annual climate pollution from 104 coal-fired power plants.

 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation organization that works to protect and restore watersheds and wildlife throughout the West.
WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. Guardians envisions a future in which communities are empowered to choose the kind of power, jobs, and local solutions that benefit current and future generations—solutions that will also enable us to confront the climate crisis.

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Otsego 2000 Challenges FERC Decision to Ignore GHG Impacts

Contact: Ellen Pope, director@otsego2000.org, 607-547-8881

COOPERSTOWN, NY (November 26, 2018) — On Monday, November 26, Otsego 2000 filed an appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decision permitting Dominion Transmission Inc.’s New Market Project to proceed. Otsego 2000 argues that in permitting this project, FERC violated the Natural Gas Act, NEPA, and binding legal precedent, when FERC refused to consider upstream or downstream GHG impacts wrongfully deciding that these impacts were not foreseeable or quantifiable. FERC also announced a significant policy change stating that for the same reasons, it would no longer consider GHG impacts in future cases. By announcing a significant policy change in a single docket, FERC also violated the Administrative Procedure Act which requires agencies to give notice of proposed policy changes, and allow public comment. By its action, FERC denied due process to citizens and stakeholders across the nation who had no notice of FERC’s plan until it was too late to intervene.

“At a time of surging concern for climate change and growing scientific evidence of its causes, FERC’s announcement of a new ‘policy’ to refuse to even consider GHG emission impacts, in defiance of existing law, must be rejected,” said Nicole Dillingham, President of Otsego 2000’s Board of Directors. She added: “The fact that FERC attempts to announce such a policy in a single docket denies all other others of their due process rights. Otsego 2000, as the only party with standing to appeal, simply cannot let this go unchallenged.”

Otsego 2000, an environmental and preservation advocacy organization based in Cooperstown, NY, is represented by Michael Sussman, Esq., of Sussman & Associates, Goshen, NY.

To read the brief and keep up-to-date on the case as it moves forward, visit .

 

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Rebuilding Stronger: National Wildlife Federation Outlines 12 Recommendations to Protect America from Hurricanes, Worsening Extreme Storms

For Immediate Release, September 27, 2018

Contact: Mike Saccone, National Wildlife Federation, SacconeM@NWF.org, 202-797-6634 

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2018) — In the wake of yet another record-breaking hurricane, the National Wildlife Federation urged Congress to act on a series of urgent, comprehensive steps to prepare America for rising oceans and worsening storms. Rebuilding Stronger: 12 Priority Policies to Better Protect our Nation from Extreme Storms documents lessons learned from Hurricane Florence, which dumped up to 36 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina and about nine trillion gallons of water total on the Carolinas. The storm took more than 40 lives, cut off power for hundreds of thousands, and polluted rivers with spills from coal ash and pig waste lagoons.

“America needs a national commitment to protecting communities from the staggering destruction of extreme storms, like Hurricane Florence. Our communities and wildlife are at-risk because of decades of inaction, but we have highlighted concrete ways Congress can safeguard communities, protect wildlife, promote resilience and adapt to worsening storms, exacerbated by climate change,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We’re asking Congress not just to fund damage repair for this storm, but to take a series of low-cost or even cost-saving steps to better prepare communities across America for future storms.”

Rebuilding Stronger recommends that Congress:

Prioritize Natural Infrastructure Solutions for Hazard Risk Reduction
Reform the National Flood Insurance Program
Increase Investment in Resilience and “Pre-sponse”  
Reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
Ensure Clean Water Act Safeguards Protect Existing Wetlands, Waterways, and Natural Floodplains
Ensure Meaningful Public Input and Environmental Review 
Improve Stormwater Management 
Address Dangerous and Outdated Infrastructure 
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting and Design of Toxic Pollutant Storage Facilities
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting, Design, and Management of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
Ensure Full Funding for Farm Bill Conservation Programs
Advance Climate and Clean Energy Solutions

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Lawsuit Challenges Oil, Gas Lease Sales on Public Lands near Dinosaur National Monument

For Immediate Release, September 27, 2018

Contact:  Matthew Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 579-5162, matt@rockymountainwild.org
                Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 925-2521, ddascalujoffe@biologicaldiversity.org
                Alison Heis, National Parks Conservation Association, (202) 384-8762, aheis@npca.org
                Becca Fischer, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org
                Stuart Gillespie, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9616, sgillespie@earthjustice.org

DENVER, CO (September 27, 2018) — Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for leasing more than 115,000 acres of public land in western Colorado and northern Utah for oil and gas development without adequate environmental protections. These lease sales, offered by the Bureau of Land Management, violate federal environmental laws and will worsen air quality in a region already laden with harmful levels of ozone pollution.

Today’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, aims to invalidate the leases granted to oil and gas companies by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s BLM due to the agency’s failure to properly analyze risks to public health and the environment, as required by federal laws.

“Zinke’s playing a dangerous game by skipping environmental reviews at the risk of human lives,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s appalling that he’d push for more fossil fuel extraction on public lands and then ignore how much damage fracking would do, particularly to kids with asthma. The Trump administration’s drilling and fracking agenda is a disaster for people and wildlife alike.”

Oil and gas operations are the largest human-made source of air and climate pollution in the Uinta Basin, plaguing this once-pristine region with significant air pollution comparable with densely populated cities like Los Angeles and Denver. Elevated levels of ozone pollution endanger public health, causing asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It’s particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations, including children, seniors and people with respiratory conditions.

The BLM had a legal duty to analyze and address potential harms to human health and landscapes before leasing the 115,000 acres in December 2017 and June 2018. The agency skipped this analysis, instead prioritizing the interests of oil and gas companies over public health and environmental protection. Today’s lawsuit claims these leasing decisions violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

“Prioritizing economic benefits over public health and the environment is wrong,” said Matt Sandler, staff attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild. “This is especially so when the BLM has failed to comply with the laws that would have ensured the public knew the full impacts of these leasing decisions.”

The leased area includes land near Dinosaur National Monument, where more than 300,000 visitors a year come to experience the expansive views, untouched landscape and dark night skies. Air pollution from oil and gas drilling in the region already worsens visibility, stunts vegetation growth and harms delicate ecosystems. More oil and gas development in the area will only make matters worse.

“Our national parks offer millions of people each year the opportunity to connect to the great outdoors and learn about our country’s past, but the protection of our parks can only be assured when their adjacent lands are well-managed,” said David Nimkin, NPCA senior southwest regional director. “NPCA is deeply concerned about the deteriorating air quality in this region due to oil and gas development that directly affects national parks like Dinosaur National Monument, as well as the health of park visitors, who come here to experience the striking views, dark night skies and exceptional biodiversity of this unique place. As a recent national study found, park visitation drops by at least eight percent when ozone pollution is high — a clear indicator that air quality is an important issue for the public and directly impacts their enjoyment of our national parks.”

“Not only are we moving to protect our communities, public health and national parks by addressing ozone pollution head on, we’re also moving to protect our climate by ensuring that Trump and Zinke account for the cumulative impacts from federal oil and gas leasing,” said Becca Fischer, climate guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “The federal government has ignored these costs for too long.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed by Rocky Mountain Wild, National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. The groups are represented by Earthjustice.

“This case is about enforcing our environmental laws, which are designed to protect public health, the environment and treasured places like Dinosaur National Monument,” said Stu Gillespie, staff attorney with Earthjustice. “BLM cannot circumvent these laws in its headlong rush to lease our public lands for oil and gas development. We’re asking the court to hold the agency accountable and set aside these illegal leasing decisions.”

Public lands oil and gas development and fracking near Utah’s White and Green Rivers. Photo by Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity. Overflight by EcoFlight. This image is available for media use.
Rocky Mountain Wild is a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, that works to protect, connect, and restore wildlife and wild lands in the Southern Rocky Mountain region. www.rockymountainwild.org

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

WildEarth Guardians is an environmental nonprofit that works to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. We envision a future in which communities are empowered to choose the kind of power, jobs, and local solutions that benefit current and future generations — solutions that will also enable us to confront the climate crisis.

Earthjustice is the nation’s premier environmental law organization. We believe that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. Since our founding more than four decades ago, we’ve defended that right by using the power of the law to fight for the earth and its inhabitants.

 

Rocky Mountain Wild is a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, that works to protect, connect, and restore wildlife and wild lands in the Southern Rocky Mountain region. www.rockymountainwild.org

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
WildEarth Guardians is an environmental nonprofit that works to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West. We envision a future in which communities are empowered to choose the kind of power, jobs, and local solutions that benefit current and future generations — solutions that will also enable us to confront the climate crisis.
Earthjustice is the nation’s premier environmental law organization. We believe that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. Since our founding more than four decades ago, we’ve defended that right by using the power of the law to fight for the earth and its inhabitants.

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Lawsuit Challenges Tennessee Valley Authority’s Attack on Solar Energy in South

BIRMINGHAM, AL (September 6, 2018) — Five climate and energy-conservation groups today sued the Tennessee Valley Authority for imposing discriminatory electricity rates that discourage homeowners and businesses from investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Alabama, notes that the utility’s new fixed “grid-access charge” will, for the first time, require its customers to pay a mandatory electricity fee regardless of their energy usage. Such fixed fees make rooftop solar less cost-effective.

The utility is also reducing electricity rates for large businesses. This move encourages companies to continue relying on its fossil fuel-powered energy rather than investing in distributed solar. The new rates also cut costs for the biggest energy users, discouraging efficiency.

The utility’s board of directors, with a majority appointed by President Trump, has now given final approval to all of these rate changes.

“TVA’s outrageous new rates penalize people working hard to save energy and money while rewarding big companies that run up huge electricity bills,” said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This perverse plan forces customers to prop up dirty, outmoded power plants instead of transitioning to renewable power. We desperately need clean-energy progress and efficiency investments to protect our communities and the environment.”

As detailed in today’s lawsuit, the utility has failed to disclose the environmental impacts of these rate changes, in violation of federal law. The new rates will inevitably result in more energy generated by power plants that run on fossil fuels — creating unnecessary pollution and worsening the climate crisis. TVA must address the damage the new rates will cause in an environmental impact statement.

“TVA continues to lose its leadership position on renewable energy and energy efficiency. TVA’s rate changes are about one thing and one thing only,” said Daniel Tait, technical director for Energy Alabama. “Killing energy efficiency and renewable energy to protect its monopoly stranglehold on regular folks.”

“Clean, renewable energy like rooftop solar represents a tremendous opportunity in Alabama to create new jobs, generate homegrown energy, save customers and businesses money, and reduce impacts on human health,” said Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen. “TVA’s so-called ‘grid access charge’ will disincentivize solar energy and all its benefits.”

“The TVA’s notoriously high bills already force working families and low-income households to choose between feeding their families and keeping the lights on,” said Damon Moglen, senior strategic advisor with Friends of the Earth. “Now customers are being forced to bolster the highly polluting fossil fuel industry by paying even more for their electric bills. We must end the TVA’s disastrous and unfair practices and transition to a clean energy system that is accessible and affordable to everyone.”

“TVA’s move to increase fixed fees on monthly bills is intended to undercut customers’ ability to control energy costs through energy efficiency and solar investments,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “TVA is trying to mislead people by talking about their ‘low rates’ but energy consumers don’t pay rates, they pay bills, which are calculated as a rate times consumption plus fixed fees. Customers in the TVA service territory have some of the highest bills in the United States. The devious ‘grid access charge’ will only accelerate the high-bills problem by increasing fixed fees and stifling efforts to control electric consumption by families and small businesses, leading to higher costs and more pollution. This legal action seeks to educate people about what is happening to them each and every month.”

TVA is a federally owned corporation and the nation’s largest public power provider. It generates electricity for more than 9 million customers in Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, southwestern Kentucky, and portions of northern Georgia, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

 

Contacts:

Erin Jensen, Friends of the Earth U.S., (202) 222-0722, ejensen@foe.org
Howard Crystal, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 809-6926, hcrystal@biologicaldiversity.org
Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama, (256) 812-1431, dtait@alcse.org
Michael Hansen, Gasp, (205) 746-4666, michael@gaspgroup.org 
Jennifer Rennicks, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-235-1448, Jennifer@cleanenergy.org

 
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340 Organizations Call on Trump Administration to Abandon Rushed Rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 21, 2018
Contact: Phil LaRue, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500 x 4317, plarue@earthjustice.org

WASHINGTON, DC (August 21, 2018) – More than 340 public interest organizations from across the country formally submitted comments on Friday urging the White House Council on Environmental Quality to abandon its reckless and unprecedented attempts to rewrite the implementing procedures of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Act, written partly in response to 1960s highway revolts protesting the destruction of communities and ecosystems, has long been considered a bipartisan core of American environmental law. It passed the Senate unanimously when first considered.

Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:

“The National Environmental Policy Act was written in response to some of the most significant environmental and civil rights issues in modern history. And yet here, in the middle of August, with limited opportunity for public input at a time when millions of Americans are on vacation, the Trump administration appears to be embarking on a sweeping rewrite of the law. Simply put, it’s unacceptable that the administration could roll back the core protections this law affords without seriously listening to the voices of all Americans.

“Instead of persisting with this sham of a rule-making process, let’s work together to strengthen environmental protections for all communities.”

A copy of the coalition’s comments is available HERE.

 
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Federal court throws out key permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday threw out the National Park Service’s permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in a case argued by SELC on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. The court also issued its opinion regarding a Fish and Wildlife permit that it vacated earlier.

“This is an example of what happens when dangerous projects are pushed through based on politics rather than science,” said SELC Senior Attorney D.J. Gerken. “This pipeline project was flawed from the start and Dominion and Duke’s pressure tactics to avoid laws that protect our public lands, water, and wildlife are now coming to light.”

The ruling entered by a panel of three judges means that Dominion no longer has the permit needed to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves through some of the most scenic terrain in Virginia and North Carolina.

Now, if pipeline developers continue construction on the 600-mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina, they will be operating without two crucial federal permits.

“Given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to stop construction based on an invalid right of way permit in the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, FERC should immediately halt all construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “It’s time to pause and take a look at this project for what it is, an unnecessary pipeline that’s being pushed through to benefit Dominion Energy, not the people of Virginia and North Carolina. ”

SELC is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to halt all construction along the ACP route given it no longer possesses a right-of-way permit from the National Park Service.

It has become clear in recent hearings at the State Corporation Commission that Dominion has never even conducted a study as to whether the pipeline is needed in Virginia. And Dominion’s claims of energy savings are bogus; Virginians will pay $2 billion more for the pipeline than it would if the utility used existing pipelines.

This May, the same three-judge panel found that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval for the project did not comport with the law. The initial order stated that the agency’s limits for harming endangered species were so vague that they undermined the objectives of the Endangered Species Act.

There are other permits in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals under challenge for inadequacy to protect land, water, and wildlife in the path of this risky and unnecessary project.

To learn more about the risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline go to inthepath.org.

 

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Congress Keeps Defense Authorization Bill Free of Riders Curtailing ESA and NEPA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Contact: Eric Bontrager; 703-887-0559; eric.bontrager@tnc.org

WASHINGTON, DC (August 1, 2018) – The following is a statement by Lynn Scarlett, Co-Chief of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy, following the passage by both the House and the Senate of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that does not include several proposed damaging provisions that would have undercut the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

Congressional negotiators successfully kept these proposals, which included prohibitions or delays on listing certain species and exemptions from completing environmental analysis for a broad suite of extraction projects on public lands, from the final version of the bill. The president is expected to sign this legislation:

“Congressional leaders should be commended for working together to leave dangerous rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act on the cutting room floor,” said Scarlett. “With passage of a NDAA bill without these proposals, the important collaborative work on the ground to find long-term solutions for conserving imperiled species, like the greater sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken, can continue. 

“While we are pleased with this development, the future of the Endangered Species Act is far from secure. Repeated proposals by the administration and members of Congress to undercut or weaken the act jeopardize the long-term survival of at-risk species. While there is room for exploring ways to update and improve the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, these species-specific attacks undercut that work and make it nearly impossible to have serious discussions about ways to improve the act and its implementation. However, any changes to the act or implementing regulations must be focused on enhancing outcomes for species. The Nature Conservancy will not support changes that diminish or weaken the core protections of the Act.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

 

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Court Deals Another Blow to Fracked Gas Mountain Valley Pipeline

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, July 27, 2018

Contact: Doug Jackson, 202-495-3045,  doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON, DC (July 27, 2018) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dealt another blow to the floundering Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), handing down a decision that rescinds permission for all pipeline-related activities in the Jefferson National Forest. In response to a challenge from a coalition of clean air and water advocates, the court vacated the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s decisions to allow the MVP to cross the publicly owned Jefferson National Forest.

As a result of today’s decision, MVP should halt work within the publicly-owned Jefferson National Forest immediately.
The court sided with the coalition groups on their claims that:

The Forest Service had improperly concluded that sedimentation and erosion impacts of the pipeline could be mitigated. The Court chastised the Forest Service for capitulating to MVP’s optimistic assertions of mitigation effectiveness, instead pointing to the Forest Service’s own statements about how mitigation often fails in practice.

The Forest Service violated its own 2012 Forest Planning Rule, by arbitrarily concluding that amendments to forest plan standards protecting soil, water, and riparian resources to accommodate the pipeline construction were not “directly related” to the requirement to protect those same resources.

The Bureau of Land Management violated the Mineral Leasing Act by approving a new right-of-way across the National Forest without having demonstrated that co-locating with existing disturbance would be impractical.

Today’s decision has implications beyond the imminent halt of construction along the 3.5 mile section of MVP’s route through the Jefferson National Forest. Since the same panel of judges is also reviewing the coalition’s same arguments against Virginia’s certification of MVP pursuant to section 401 of the Clean Water Act, it could mean trouble for the MVP’s route in the entirety of Virginia. Furthermore, Sierra Club and Wild Virginia, together with other organizations, have filed a similar challenge regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline; that case is scheduled for a hearing September 28.
Today’s decision was the result of cases brought by Sierra Club, Wild Virginia, and Appalachian Voices, represented by Sierra Club attorneys Nathan Matthews and Elly Benson, together with The Wilderness Society, Preserve Craig, and Save Monroe, represented by attorney Tammy Belinksy.
In response, Sierra Club Staff Attorney Nathan Matthews released the following statement:
“Today’s decision is great news for Virginians and everyone who cares about clean water and pristine forests. We have said all along that we can’t trust Mountain Valley Pipeline to protect Virginia’s water, so it’s refreshing to see the court refuse to take them at their word. We aren’t buying the gas industry’s claims about their water protection methods and now, the courts aren’t either. MVP should immediately halt all work in the publicly-owned Jefferson National Forest.
“These polluting corporations are threatening Virginia’s water, climate, and communities so they can make a profit off a pipeline that isn’t even needed. There is no right way to build these pipelines and we don’t want our water polluted just to line the pockets of gas industry CEOs.”
David Sligh, Conservation Director of Wild Virginia, said:
“Today’s decision from the federal appeals court upholds the principle that agencies responsible for protecting the public’s lands and resources must conduct thorough and honest reviews and reject proposals that would harm our interests. Senior officials in the Trump administration betrayed our trust and ignored the good work of Forest Service experts, placing corporate profits above the rights of citizens who use and value these precious natural treasures.”
Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager of Appalachian Voices, said:
“This is a major victory for Virginia families and for all Americans. The national forests are held in public trust, and citizens have long argued that this massive pipeline would devastate the Jefferson National Forest and pollute water resources along the route on public and private land. The court is compelling the Forest Service to adhere to water and other environmental protections on federal land. For its part, the Northam administration must fulfill its duty to protect water resources by requiring a stream-by-stream analysis along the entire route.”
Hugh Irwin, Conservation Planner for The Wilderness Society, said:
“Our effort to prevent this pipeline construction underscores why our national Too Wild to Drill Campaign includes this pipeline across the Southern Appalachians. The Mountain Valley Pipeline would harm public lands in Virginia and West Virginia including a roadless area, old growth forest, the Appalachian Trail, rare wild species and local drinking water.”
Jim Gore, Member of the Board, Save Monroe, Inc. said:
“The 4th Circuit has validated what we have been saying to the Forest Service for almost four years. We are already seeing ongoing degradation of water resources due to erosion and sedimentation caused by MVP construction on our steep slopes and ridges. Save Monroe is gratified that the Court sees it as we do and has acted to protect the forest and its irreplaceable water.”
Bill Wolf, Co-Chair of Preserve Craig, Inc., said:
“The quality of life in our community has already been seriously harmed by MVP and the Forest Service and BLM decisions. If MVP were a responsible company, it would respect this decision and halt all construction activity today.”  

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

 

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Appeal Challenges Oil Drilling in California’s Carrizo Plain National Monument

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, (805) 617-4610 x 1, jeff@LPFW.org
Lisa Belenky, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 385-5694, lbelenky@biologicaldiversity.org

Bakersfield, CA (April 20, 2018) — Los Padres ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity today appealed the Trump administration’s approval of a new oil well and pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument. It is the first well the Interior Department has approved in the monument since it was established in 2001

Today’s appeals, filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals in Virginia and the Bureau of Land Management’s California director, show that the oil well and pipeline would harm threatened and endangered wildlife and mar scenic views. The fossil fuel development would violate several laws, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the monument’s resource-management plan.

“Oil drilling in the Carrizo Plain National Monument must comply with the highest environmental standards to ensure the protection of this iconic landscape,” said ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper. “This new well and pipeline fall far short of that standard, threatening the area’s rare wildlife and scenic views.”

The proposed well site is located at the base of the Caliente Mountains along the western boundary of Carrizo Plain National Monument. The area is home to several protected species, including the threatened San Joaquin antelope squirrel, the endangered San Joaquin kit fox, and a threatened flowering plant called the Kern mallow. Endangered California condors also visit this area with increasing frequency as the birds continue to expand into their historic range.

The oil well would be drilled on an existing oil pad that hasn’t produced oil since the 1950s. Two years ago the BLM approved the oil company’s request to formally abandon the pad and remove an old well, pipelines and other equipment from the site. The company also pledged to recontour and reseed the pad and a half-mile access road leading to it, restoring the area to natural conditions. The work was never done and now the BLM is backtracking on its abandonment plans by approving further development there.

“The irrational, illegal decision to approve this oil drilling imperils rare wildlife and contradicts the conservation purpose of this monument,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney at the Center. “The Trump administration must not be allowed to continue expanding oil and gas drilling in the face of climate change. We need to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and turn to renewable energy sources.”

The new well would be visible from key vantage points within Carrizo Plain National Monument, including the Caliente Wilderness Study Area on Caliente Mountain (the highest point in San Luis Obispo County), and from Highway 166, a scenic route in the Cuyama Valley.

Existing oil leases were “grandfathered” in under the monument proclamation signed by President Bill Clinton in 2001, but must comply with more stringent standards. The new well would be drilled in the Russell Ranch Oil Field, which covers approximately 1,500 acres of the monument and adjacent private land. In 2016 the field produced only 125 barrels of oil per day ― 0.02 percent of the state’s total oil production and one of the lowest-producing oilfields in the state. The field is reportedly nearing the end of its useful life.

Conservation groups have asked the BLM to substantially revise its environmental assessment and consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the BLM disregarded most of the concerns and refused to consult with the wildlife agency.

Background

Carrizo Plain National Monument is a vast expanse of golden grasslands and stark ridges known for their springtime wildflower displays. Often referred to as “California’s Serengeti,” it is one of the last undeveloped remnants of the southern San Joaquin Valley ecosystem.

The Carrizo Plain is critical for the long-term conservation of this dwindling ecosystem, linking these lands to other high-value habitat areas like the Los Padres National Forest, Salinas Valley, Cuyama Valley and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in western Kern County. Honoring the area’s high biodiversity, limited human impacts, and rare geological and cultural features, the Carrizo Plain was declared a national monument in 2001. It includes more than 206,000 acres of public lands ― perhaps the largest native grassland remaining in all of California.

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Los Padres ForestWatch is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife, wilderness landscapes, watersheds, and outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the Los Padres National Forest and the adjacent Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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The Partnership Project's NEPA campaign is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.