A coalition of environmental advocacy groups has filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management under accusations that the BLM violated the Endangered Species Act when they did not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before passing the 2013 oil shale and tar sands final environmental impact statement. The BLM recently amended 10 land management plans in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to make 810,000 acres of land available for oil shale and tar sands leasing. Despite acknowledging that development would potentially impact numerous endangered or nearly endangered species, the BLM refused to meet with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before passing the new oil shale and tar sands regulations.
The BLM admits that they refused to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but claims that any meetings at this point would be largely speculative because the BLM would need to develop site-specific plans before consulting with the agency. According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the BLM does plan on extending the public comment period to provide addition feedback on the new oil shale and tar sands regulations.
The intent to sue was filed on behalf of the Grand Canyon Trust, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, Living Rivers, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and Rocky Mountain Wild. The notice claims that the parties intend “to file a civil action against BLM for violating Sections 7 and 9 of the Endangered Species Act” when the agency finalized the environmental impact statement. The BLM acknowledged that oil shale and tar sand development would impact the “Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Mexican spotted owl and many other threatened and endangered species” in the FEIS.
The intent to sue comes as little surprise to followers of the oil shale industry. Essentially every decision regarding oil shale has been met with fierce opposition from environmental groups, who see the industry as potentially devastating to Western wildlife and water resources. In fact, the new regulations from the BLM are a result of a previously successful lawsuit from a coalition of environmental groups against a 2008 plan to open nearly 2 million acres to oil shale development.
The lawsuit also aims to change the royalty rate system for oil shale leases. Currently, oil shale companies will pay a low-rate of 5 percent in the first year of development. The rate steadily increases to 12.5 percent by the 13th year of production. The lawsuit supports the BLM alternative that maintains a 12.5 percent royalty rate from the beginning.
To read the coalition’s press release, which includes a link to the actual suit, click here.