Montana Public Radio

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

May 4, 2020
Originally published on May 4, 2020 4:03 pm

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.

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