WASHINGTON (CN) – The Bush administration on Friday will auction off oil and gas drilling leases on 111,000 acres of the most spectacular red rock country in Utah in a last-minute giveaway to oil companies, say seven environmental groups in Federal Court. The Bureau of Land Management ignored protests from the EPA, the National Park Service, the Hopi tribe and violated a slew of environmental laws to allow oil rig construction that will harm Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument.
Plaintiffs say the Bureau of Land Management “rushed to complete the challenged lease sale before a new administration – one that has publicly criticized the lease sale – takes office in January 2009. In its haste, the agency failed to complete the analysis required by federal law for the protection of natural and cultural resources.”
Plaintiffs are the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
They want the auctions enjoined until the government complies with a host of environmental laws, including the National Environmental Protection Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and other Secretarial orders and regulations.
Plaintiffs’ lead counsel is Sharon Buccino with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Also on Wednesday, three environmental groups challenged four auctions the BLM already has conducted for oil and mineral leases on a total of 40,200 acres in Montana. Lead plaintiff the Montana Environmental Information Center challenges the auctions held on April 8, June 17, Aug. 26 and Nov. 4 this year, on similar grounds to those of the Utah case. This complaint was filed in Missoula Federal Court by lead counsel Sarah McMillan with the Western Environmental Law Center.