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Federal judge vacates oil and gas leases on 145K acres in Montana

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Cites weak environmental assessments by Trump administration

“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (1) – 5/4/20

On May 1, Brian Morris of the United States District Court for the District of Montana, vacated 145,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Montana, citing the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management failure to adequately assess the environmental impacts of the requisite drilling. Some 287 leases were nixed in the process, a slap to the Trump administration, and the latest in a string of criticism for the administration’s lack of regard for the “cumulative impacts of expanding fossil fuel production on the warming of the planet,” reports The New York Times. Morris cited the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the administration’s failure to follow its provisions, specifically the federal government’s requisite analysis of both local environmental impacts and cumulative effects of anticipated fossil fuel impacts on the planet. The White House has extended proposals to amend the act, notably cutting the cumulative impacts component. Derrick Henry, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, the agency compelled to complete the necessary analysis before issuing new leases as a result of Morris’ decision, wrote in an email to The Times: “With all due respect, we disagree with the Court’s conclusion, and the B.L.M. stands by its analysis in following the letter of the law to issue oil and gas leases in Montana. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this dispute and despite the attempts of radical, special interest groups, the Department and the B.L.M. will continue to work toward ensuring America’s energy independence while preserving a healthy environment.”

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