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PSR Sues to Protect Public Lands from Fracking

Fracking on public lands in Wyoming. Photo: WildEarth Guardians / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

PSR and an environmental organization filed suit in federal court this month to overturn leases that permit fracking for oil and gas on nearly two million acres of public lands in five western states.

PSR joined with WildEarth Guardians to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The case argues that the BLM leases fail to take into account the effects of climate change that would result from fracking operations.

The leases are located on publicly owned land in the states of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

“Fracking leaks huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere, heating the climate and fueling massive health threats: deadly wildfires, flooding, damage to agriculture, and more,” said Barbara Gottlieb, PSR Environment and Health Director. “We need to move beyond fossil fuels, and that means we need to stop leasing public lands for oil and gas extraction.”

Ending fracking on public lands would also yield extensive direct health benefits. Besides impacting the climate, oil and gas extraction are associated with multiple health risks, including cancer, asthma, and pre-term birth, as was confirmed in the fracking science Compendium released by PSR and Concerned Health Professionals of New York.

The Interior Department and BLM have downplayed the climate consequences of authorizing more fossil fuel production on public lands, failing to fully analyzing the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of oil and gas leasing on the climate, as is required under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

A map of the oil and gas leases we are challenging is available here.

The lawsuit comes as the Trump administration announced proposed rollbacks to federal environmental reviews that would exempt agencies from having to address climate impacts.

PSR and WildEarth Guardians won a similar case, filed in 2016, that addressed the leasing of more than 450,000 acres for fracking in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.