May 4, 2020

Court vacates 287 BLM oil & gas leases

Court vacates 287 BLM oil & gas leases

Bonnie Martinell, a farmer near Bridger, knows how valuable water is. She uses water from a ditch on her 350 fruit and nut trees, and she knows a warming climate could help dry it up. Already, some of her neighbors’ wells are running dry. Towns to the south, where aquifers have been contaminated by oil rigs, have to drill down thousands of feet to find clean water. 

That’s why Martinell, along with Montana farmer David Katz, WildEarth Guardians and the Montana Environmental Information Center, filed a lawsuit alleging the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly consider the groundwater impacts and climate change consequences of oil and gas lease sales across Montana, including some as close as a mile from Martinell’s rural Carbon County farm.

“We don’t live without water,” she said. “None of us do.”

On Friday, a federal judge vacated 287 oil and gas leases in Montana, ruling that the Bureau of Land Management’s 2017 and 2018 sales did not properly assess the leases’ threat to groundwater and impacts on climate change. The leases, on public land totaling 150,000 acres, were statewide, from the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument area to the Beartooth Mountains to eastern Montana. 

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