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Judge Blocks Oil & Gas Leases Over Inadequate Analysis Of Groundwater Impacts

The Bureau of Land Management last week announced an increase to drilling permit fees on public lands.
Amy R. Sisk
Montana Public Radio
The Bureau of Land Management last week announced an increase to drilling permit fees on public lands.

A federal judge ruled in favor of environmental groups May 01 when he stopped thousands of acres worth of oil and gas lease sales in Montana.

Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls put a hold on almost 300 oil and gas lease sales Friday after he ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct an analysis of environmental effects on groundwater.

Environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and the Montana Environmental Information Center, along with two Montana landowners, brought the case to court in 2018.

The lawsuit applies to lease sales in Billings, Butte, Miles City, and along the Hi-Line from Dec. 2017 and March 2018.

While the court ruled that the BLM could continue with the sales when it completes those analyses, WildEarth Guardians attorney Rebecca Fischer is hopeful these specific lease sales will stop entirely.

“What’s really clear in the current times we’re living in is that economics can change very rapidly for the oil and gas industry and for the fossil fuel industry in general and I think that we don’t really know what’s going to happen in a year, a year and a half," Fischer said. 

BLM sent a statement to YPR that it respectfully disagrees with the Court’s conclusion.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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