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Court Ruling: Feds Illegally Approved Colorado Gas Drilling in Elk Habitat

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2019

DENVER― A federal judge ruled today that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service illegally approved two adjacent natural-gas drilling plans in western Colorado, finding that officials did not adequately analyze wildlife and climate impacts.

In today’s ruling U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock faulted the two federal agencies for failing to account for downstream emissions from drilling and faulted BLM for failing to adequately address potential harm to mule deer and elk. The judge said the agency must clarify the area it used when analyzing potential harms to elk and mule deer habitat.

“This is an important win for our public lands, the climate and the tenacity of the North Fork Valley community. Requiring the Bureau of Land Management to clearly and properly analyze all potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of this large-scale industrial oil and gas development project is absolutely critical to protecting the rare and irreplaceable ecosystem of the North Fork Valley and all those who rely on it,” said Natasha Léger, Executive Director, Citizens for a Healthy Community.

“High Country Conservation Advocates is thrilled with the court’s favorable ruling,” said Matt Reed, public lands director at Crested Butte’s High Country Conservation Advocates. “The Bull Mountain area is home to important populations of elk and mule deer, iconic species increasingly under threat from surrounding oil and gas development. Ensuring that impacts from this project are considered, analyzed, and adequately addressed is critical to maintaining their long-term vitality in the Upper North Fork.”

In January 2018 Citizens for a Healthy Community, High Country Conservation Advocates, Wilderness Workshop, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center filed suit to challenge the 146- well Bull Mountain Master Development Plan and an adjacent 25-well project.

“For too long agencies have ignored their obligation to consider and disclose the climate-related impacts of burning oil and gas they lease on our public lands,” said Peter Hart, Staff Attorney at Wilderness Workshop. “A slew of recent cases confirm that the law requires more. Public land managers must consider how their management of fossil fuels will affect our climate, and that information must be disclosed to the public prior to approving more development.”

“This ruling is welcome news,” said Laura King, attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center. “It joins a string of favorable rulings on downstream climate effects, helping to ensure that the federal government shares with the public and considers the true climate effects of its fossil fuel extraction approvals.”

The Bull Mountain project is in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, which provides drinking and irrigation water to residents and farmers who supply the Western Slope and the Front Range with some of the state’s highest-quality produce, meats and wineries.

“This ruling is a victory for everyone who wants Colorado’s wildlife, watersheds and most spectacular landscapes protected,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bureau of Land Management shouldn’t be forcing our state to sacrifice healthy deer and elk populations for Trump’s reckless drill-anywhere agenda. It’s wonderful to see the court recognize that the BLM can’t just ignore the significant harm to these animals that results from oil and gas development on public lands.”

In today’s ruling the judge said the Forest Service and BLM “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and violated NEPA by not taking a hard look at the foreseeable indirect effects resulting from the combustion of oil and gas” in their environmental analyses.

Background

The Bull Mountain Master Development Plan is a large-scale drilling project for the North Fork of the Gunnison River watershed in Colorado, proposed by Texas-based SG Interests. The Master Development Plan calls for 146 new gas wells, four new waste water disposal wells, and associated infrastructure in the Bull Mountain Unit — a nearly 20,000-acre area between Paonia Reservoir and McClure Pass, immediately adjacent
to the Thompson Divide.

This area is primarily private surface ownership with a majority of public minerals. The BLM approved the drilling project after preparing an environmental impact statement.

The 25-well project is adjacent to the Bull Mountain project and involves the construction of 25 natural gas wells. The BLM and Forest Service approved the drilling project after preparing an environmental assessment to analyze the environmental impacts.

Western Colorado’s North Fork Valley, roughly defined as the area around the three small towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia, has been named “Colorado’s Farm-to-Table Capital” by Colorado Life Magazine and declared a certified creative district by former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Farmers across the valley produce much of Colorado’s apple, cherry and pear crops, and the state’s second largest grape and peach crops.

The North Fork Valley is home to the highest concentration of organic farms in the state of Colorado and to the West Elks American Viticultural Area, a federally recognized wine-growing region.

Contacts:

Natasha Léger, Citizens for a Healthy Community, (970) 399-9700
Matt Reed, High Country Conservation Advocates, (866) 349-7104
Peter Hart, Wilderness Workshop, (970) 963-3977
Allison Melton, Center for Biological Diversity, (970) 309-2008,
amelton@biologicaldiversity.org
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663
Laura King, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 204-4852

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Lawsuit Challenges Utah’s New Green River Water Contract

For Immediate Release
March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON― Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today to challenge the Interior Department’s decision allowing additional water to be taken from the Green River below Utah’s Flaming Gorge Dam. The decision was made without a full accounting of reduced Colorado River basin flows or how the region’s persistent drought and climate change could harm endangered species and recreation.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., says Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation failed to consider other pending water contracts, including the Lake Powell Pipeline, which could further deplete the Green and Colorado rivers.

The agency claimed in its environmental assessment that the new Green River Water Rights Exchange contract, signed Wednesday, would have no significant environmental impact. But it did not consider climate change, drought or over-allocation of water.

“The water resources of the Colorado River Basin are already headed toward irretrievable decline in both quantity and quality,” said John Weisheit of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper. “The environmental review ignored the reality of declining river flows in the Green River and the rest of the Colorado basin and the connected impacts of this contract and the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline water contract.”

“This review was appalling. The Green and Colorado river systems need a full accounting,” said Robin Silver, a cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Drought, climate change and over-allocation are sucking the Colorado River basin dry right in front of our eyes. But officials ignored declining river flows, pretended this new Green River contract stands alone and ignored multiple proposed water projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline. We’ll fight to defend these spectacular rivers.”

Four endangered fish could be harmed by changes to water flows and timing contemplated under the Green River Water Rights Exchange contract and other pending water deals. Changes to Flaming Gorge Dam operations necessary to accommodate the water contracts and drought-contingency planning could be devastating for these fish and other species. Endangered species at risk include the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail chub.

The river includes fragile riparian areas and wetlands, as well as breathtaking canyons popular with rafters. It winds through Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, Dinosaur National Monument, Ouray National Wildlife Refuge and Canyonlands National Park before joining up with the Colorado River.

“The Bureau’s Green River Block environmental review is a disingenuous facade that ignores the agency’s own climate change warnings and myriad scientific studies about water-supply shortfalls to advance the largest new proposed diversion of the Colorado River, the Lake Powell Pipeline,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of Utah Rivers Council.

The groups are represented by attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity.
###
Contacts:

Contacts: John Weisheit, Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper, (435) 260-2590, john@livingrivers.org
Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity, (602) 799-3275, rsilver@biologicaldiversity.org
Zachary Frankel, Utah Rivers Council, (801) 699-1856, zach@utahrivers.org

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Landmark climate victory: Federal court rejects sale of public lands for fracking

For Immediate Release
March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON― In a landmark victory for climate, health, and public lands, a federal judge late yesterday rejected the sale of public lands for fracking and ordered a halt to drilling on more than 300,000 acres in Wyoming.

“This ruling is a triumph for our climate,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program director. “To limit greenhouse gas emissions, we have to start keeping our fossil fuels in the ground and putting an end to selling public lands for fracking. This decision is a critical step toward making that happen.”

“Fracked gas is dangerous for people and terrible for the climate,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Environment and Health Program director for Physicians for Social Responsibility. “This latest court win is not only a victory for our health and future, but it reinforces that the oil and gas industry doesn’t get a free pass to pollute.”

While the ruling applies to Wyoming, it has implications for public lands across the American West and is a major rebuke to the Trump administration’s anti-environment, anti-climate agenda.

In 2016, WildEarth Guardians, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Western Environmental Law Center sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department’s Bureau of Land Management for failing to account for the climate consequences of selling public lands for fracking in the American West.

The suit targeted more than 460,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming that were leased to the oil and gas industry in 2015 and 2016. An interactive map of these lands is available here >>

When leasing, the Bureau of Land Management refused to calculate and limit the greenhouse gas emissions from future oil and gas development.

During the case, the judge decided to address 303,000 acres of leases in Wyoming first. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras held the Bureau “did not adequately quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing,” violating federal environmental laws.

“It’s high time the federal government was held accountable for the costs of sacrificing our public lands for dirty oil and gas,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, managing attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “This win demonstrates the Trump administration can’t legally turn its back on climate change.”

Last fall, scientists with the Department of the Interior released an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels from public lands. The report found these emissions, which come from federal coal, as well as offshore and onshore oil and gas, accounted for 25 percent of all U.S. climate pollution.

At the same time, federal climate scientists released Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which sounded new alarms over the costs of climate change to the U.S. The report called for “immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions” to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

“With the science mounting that we need to aggressively rein in greenhouse gases, this ruling is monumental,” said Kyle Tisdel, attorney and Energy and Communities Program director for the Western Environmental Law Center. “Every acre of our public land sold to the oil and gas industry is another blow to the climate, making this ruling a powerful reality check on the Trump administration and a potent tool for reining in climate pollution.”

More than 25 million acres of public lands in the U.S. have been leased to the oil and gas industry for development. More than 20 million of these acres are located in the western states of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

Under Trump, the pace of leasing public lands for oil and gas development has surged. In 2018, nearly 4 million acres were put up for sale to the oil and gas industry. So far in 2019, the administration auctioned off or proposed leasing more than 2.1 million acres.

Judge Contreras’ ruling today signals that unless the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management begin fully accounting for the climate costs of all oil and gas leasing in the U.S., the agencies will be running afoul of federal law.

The Judge stated, “[The] agency must consider the cumulative impact of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions generated by past, present, or reasonably foreseeable BLM lease sales in the region and nation.”
###

Contacts:

Kyle Tisdel, Western Environmental Law Center, (575) 770-7501, tisdel@westernlaw.org

Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org

Barbara Gottlieb, Physicians for Social Responsibility, (202) 587-5225, bgottlieb@psr.org

Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, WildEarth Guardians, (505) 401-4180, sruscavagebarz@wildearthguardians.org

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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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New Trump executive order threatens National Forests

December 23, 2018

Contacts: Andrea Alday, 818-512-7628, andrea_alday@tws.org

WASHINGTON— Just before Friday night’s government shutdown, President Trump quietly released an executive order, threatening America’s National Forests and public lands with increased logging and seeking to eliminate both public input and environmental regulations affecting federal forest management.

The order uses recent wildfires to undermine designated wilderness and roadless area protections, even though decades of data show these lands are the most likely to exhibit healthy fire behavior. In fact, commercial logging and road building have been found to increase wildfire risk.

The Wilderness Society issued this statement from Mike Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst:

“We are disappointed that the Executive Order calls for more logging and less public involvement to solve the nation’s wildfire problems. Instead of promoting divisive legislation to weaken environmental laws, the administration should work with the new Congress to give the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior the funding they need to reduce fire risks and properly manage the national forests and public lands.”

 

The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. Visit www.wilderness.org. 

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Federal Judge to Hear Border Wall Challenge in D.C.

Media Advisory, December 17, 2018

Contacts: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org
Mary K. Reinhart, (602) 320-7309, mkreinhart@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups will present arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s border-wall construction in New Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is presiding over the case. The judge will hear arguments from both sides during the proceeding and could issue her ruling at any time following the hearing. The lawsuit challenges the administration’s use of a long-expired waiver to sweep aside 25 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife.

“Trump can’t ignore dozens of bedrock environmental laws, no matter how desperate he is to build his destructive border wall,” said Jean Su, a Center attorney. “It’s time to stop Trump’s reckless executive overreach before he inflicts more damage on people and wildlife in the borderlands. We look forward to arguing the merits of this case.”
What: Federal court hearing challenging Trump’s border wall.
Where: U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave. N.W., Courtroom 17 – 6th Floor.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 10:30 a.m.
Media Availability: Attorneys and conservation advocates will be available for interviews outside the courthouse, before and after the hearing.
Background

The Department of Homeland Security exempted itself from dozens of laws to rush border-wall construction in New Mexico. But the waiver authority, granted by Congress more than 10 years ago, no longer applies.

The border-wall project includes 20 miles of new 18 foot-high steel bollard walls, which obstruct the natural migrations of wildlife. Dozens of rare wildlife species, including the aplomado falcon and Mexican gray wolf, make their homes in this region of New Mexico, as do kit foxes, bighorn sheep and ringtail cats. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

A 2017 study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Farm bill rejects majority of attempts to undercut forest conservation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2018

Contact: Michael Reinemer, Deputy Director, Communications Strategy, michael_reinemer@tws.org, 202.429.3949
Chris Rackens, Senior Representative, Government Relations, chris_rackens@tws.org, 202.429.2643

SAN FRANCISCO (December 10, 2018) — In spite of efforts by the Trump administration to weaken forest protections by exploiting the California wildfires, congressional leaders have agreed on a bipartisan farm bill that provides some improvements to forest policy.

Today, the House and Senate Agriculture Committee chairs and ranking members announced a conference report for the farm bill. The agreement rejects proposals to undermine the environmental laws that protect forests and ensure public participation in forest management decisions.

Statement by Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society:

“Thankfully, common sense prevailed and this farm bill rejects efforts to weaken protections for our national forests, including attempts to cut the public out of decisions for our public lands. Instead, it embraces bipartisan proposals to restore forests, protect drinking water and preserve wilderness for future generations.”

“From day one, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and Chairman Pat Roberts committed to passing a bipartisan farm bill. We applaud this commitment and, on behalf of farmers, families and our public lands, we urge the House and Senate to now pass the farm bill without delay.”

Among the forestry provisions in the final bill, positive developments included: 

Tennessee Wilderness Act – Protecting 19,556 acres in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness.
Water Source Protection Program – Authorizes the Forest Service to enter into water source investment partnership agreements with end water users to protect and restore the condition of national forest watersheds.
Watershed Condition Framework – Establishes criteria to evaluate and classify the condition of watersheds, and to identify drinking water sources across the National Forest System for protection and restoration.
A reauthorization and doubling of funding for the successful Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) which encourages communities to work together on science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes.
Provisions to facilitate tribes playing a greater role with forestry management on public lands adjacent to tribal lands.
Provisions to promote cross-boundary and landscape scale restoration efforts.

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.
 

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In Blow to Pipeline Project, Court Invalidates Trump Administration’s Keystone XL Environmental Review, Blocks Construction

For Immediate Release, November 9, 2018

Contact: Margie Kelly, Natural Resources Defense Council, (541) 222-9699, mkelly@nrdc.org
Mark Hefflinger, Bold Nebraska, (323) 972-5192, mark@boldalliance.org
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626, gabby.brown@sierraclub.org
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054, jmargolis@biologicaldiversity.org
Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org
Dustin Ogdin, Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 228-1154, dustin@northernplains.org
Dena Hoff, Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 939-1839

GREAT FALLS, MT (November 9, 2018) — A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Trump administration violated bedrock U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal permit for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. The judge blocked any construction on the pipeline and ordered the government to revise its environmental review.

The decision is a significant setback for a pipeline that investors are already seriously questioning. TransCanada has not yet announced a Final Investment Decision on whether to move forward and build Keystone XL should it receive all the necessary permits.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris found that the Trump administration’s reliance on a stale environmental review from 2014 violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. This ruling follows the court’s previous decision on August 15 to require additional analysis of the new route through Nebraska.

The court required the U.S. Department of State to revise the proposed project’s environmental impact statement to evaluate the extraordinary changes in oil markets that have occurred since the previous review was completed in 2014; to consider the combined climate impacts of approving both the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines; to study the many cultural resources along the pipeline’s route; and to examine the harmful risks of oil spills on nearby water and wildlife.

The State Department must also provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to reverse course and approve the permit, after the Obama administration denied it just three years ago on the same set of facts.

Based on these violations, the court ordered the State Department to revise its environmental analysis, and prohibited any work along the proposed route — which would cross Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana — until that analysis is complete. Keystone XL would have carried up to 35 million gallons a day of Canadian tar sands — one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources — across critical water sources and wildlife habitat to Gulf Coast refineries.

Plaintiffs Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in March 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.

Quotes

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law, and it’s a victory for common sense stewardship of the land and water upon which we all depend. Despite the best efforts of wealthy, multinational corporations and the powerful politicians who cynically do their bidding, we see that everyday people can still band together and successfully defend their rights. All Americans should be proud that our system of checks and balances can still function even in the face of enormous strains,” said Dena Hoff, Montana farmer and member-leader of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

“Farmers and our Tribal Nation allies in Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana celebrate today’s victory foiling the Trump administration’s scheme to rubber-stamp the approval of Keystone XL. This now ten-year battle is still far from over. We’ll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens property rights, water and climate at every opportunity, at every public hearing. People on the route deserve due process and the Ponca Trail of Tears must be protected,” said Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance.

“Today’s ruling makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes. “The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can’t ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities.”

“This is a complete repudiation of the Trump administration’s attempts to evade environmental laws and prioritize oil company profits over clean water and wildlife,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Keystone XL would devastate species and put communities at risk of contamination. There’s simply no excuse for approving this terrible project. We need to move away from fossil fuel dependence, not support more devastation.”

“Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country,” said Jackie Prange, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration’s flawed and dangerous proposal should be shelved forever.”

“Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Rejecting the destructive Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the grassroots activists who have worked against the Keystone XL pipeline for the past decade. Environmental laws exist to protect people and our lands and waters. Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

*** The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. ***
 

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Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Texas Border Wall Waivers

For Immediate Release, October 18, 2018

Contact: Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Natalia Lima, Animal Legal Defense Fund, (201) 679-7088, nlima@aldf.org
Rebecca Bullis, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0295, rbullis@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2018) — Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for waiving 28 conservation laws to speed construction of the border wall along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Border-wall construction would cut through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and the grounds of the historic La Lomita Chapel, as well as family farms and other private property.

“The Trump administration is casting aside bedrock environmental protections with no regard for human health, wildlife or the law,” said Jean Su, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Waiving these laws is disastrous for border communities and imperiled animals, and it’s unconstitutional. We hope the courts stop Trump’s reckless abuse of power before bulldozers destroy some of the most spectacular wildlands in Texas.”

Today’s filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. says the Department of Homeland Security does not have authority to waive the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act or other laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and wildlife in the borderlands.

The department wants to sweep aside these laws to speed construction of 18 miles of 30-foot-high, levee-style border walls in Hidalgo County, as well as gates and other border-wall infrastructure in Cameron County.

The levee-style walls planned for construction will block the natural migration of wildlife and cause dangerous flooding. Existing walls have been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of Texas tortoises and other animals due to flooding, which is common in the Rio Grande Valley.

The waivers also will allow bulldozing of a 150-foot “enforcement zone” south of the wall and installation of surveillance equipment, lighting and other infrastructure with no meaningful environmental review.

“These most recent waivers of vital environmental and animal-protection laws demonstrate the administration’s continued disregard for wildlife, including the most fragile species that could be pushed to extinction by these projects,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Building a wall that cuts through the heart of vital parks, wildlife refuges and the National Butterfly Center will have devastating effects on these critical areas and the wildlife that calls these areas their home.”

Dozens of rare wildlife species, including the ocelot, jaguarundi and aplomado falcon, make their homes in this region of Texas, as do hundreds of species of migratory birds and butterflies. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

“The administration’s latest actions spotlight their willingness to gamble with our country’s natural heritage and environmental health,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Ignoring environmental and public-safety laws puts wildlife and borderland communities in the region at unnecessary risk and denies the public due process. We will do whatever it takes to fight these reckless decisions and to protect the Lower Rio Grande Valley for future generations.”

Today’s lawsuit states that the waiver authority, granted in 2006, expired years ago and is an unconstitutional delegation of power to the department. The waiver authority applied to border-wall construction under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which required the agency to build hundreds of miles of border barriers. That mandate was met several years ago, with the department using REAL ID authority five times to waive more than 35 laws on 625 miles of border-wall and barrier construction.

Last week’s border-wall waivers were issued in the middle of a public comment period that remains open until Nov. 6. So far more than 9,000 people have said they oppose the plan. U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the comment period after the Center and 42 groups requested public input and increased transparency.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations.

The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
Maps by Kara Clauser, Center for Biological Diversity. These maps are available for media use.
 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

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Climate Change Press Releases Press Releases Public Lands Press Releases

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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