United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION RE DOCUMENT NOS.: 55, 60, 61, 62,
63, 71 GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT; DENYING DEFENDANTS'
CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING
MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMICUS BRIEF
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
change, and humanity's ability to combat it, are
increasingly prominent topics of public discourse. This case
concerns the attention the government must give climate
change when taking action that may increase its effects. Two
non-profit organizations, WildEarth Guardians
(“WildEarth”) and Physicians for Social
Responsibility (together, “Plaintiffs”) assert
that the United States Bureau of Land Management
(“BLM”) violated federal law by not sufficiently
considering climate change when authorizing oil and gas
leasing on federal land in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Those
states and two industry organizations with interests in the
leases-the Western Energy Alliance and Petroleum Association
of Wyoming (“Western Alliance”), and the American
Petroleum Association of Wyoming (“American
Petroleum”)- (together with BLM,
“Defendants”) have intervened as defendants.
Another organization, the New York University School of
Law's Institute for Policy Integrity (the
“Institute”), seeks to file an amicus curiae
brief in support of Plaintiffs.
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment and the Institute's motion to file an amicus
brief. Having reviewed the record and the relevant law, the
Court concludes that-withholding judgment on whether
BLM's leasing decisions were correct-BLM did not
sufficiently consider climate change when making those
decisions. BLM summarized the potential on-the-ground impacts
of climate change in the state, the region, and across the
country. It failed, however, to provide the information
necessary for the public and agency decisionmakers to
understand the degree to which the leasing decisions at issue
would contribute to those impacts. In short, BLM did not
adequately quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas
leasing. Thus, for the reasons explained more thoroughly
below, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion in part,
denies Defendants' motions, and denies the
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
Mineral Leasing Act
the Mineral Leasing Act (“MLA”), 30 U.S.C.
§§ 181-287, the Secretary of the Interior is
responsible for managing and overseeing mineral development
on public lands in a manner that “safeguard[s] . . .
the public welfare.” Id. § 187. Subject
to this general mandate, the MLA provides for the development
of oil and gas resources on federal land. Id. §
226; see also AR3379. It requires that
“[l]ease sales shall be held for each State where
eligible lands are available [for oil and gas development] at
least quarterly and more frequently if the Secretary of the
Interior determines such sales are necessary.” 30
U.S.C. § 226(b)(1)(A). However, while oil and gas
leasing is mandatory, the Secretary has discretion to
determine where, when, and under what terms and conditions
oil and gas development should occur. Id. §
226; 43 C.F.R. § 3101.1-2. Accordingly, the federal
government may impose a broad range of stipulations on oil
and gas leases for federal land, including concerning the
timing, pace, and scale of development. Id.
Federal Land Policy and Management Act
MLA's mandate to lease federal land for oil and gas
development is carried out by BLM, in strict compliance with
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976
(“FLPMA”). 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1787. The
FLPMA directs BLM to “manage the public lands under
principles of multiple use and sustained yield.”
Id. § 1732(a). Under this mandate, the FLPMA
identifies “mineral exploration and production”
as one of the “principal or major uses” of public
lands. Id. § 1702(1). As described below, the
FLPMA establishes a series of steps that BLM must take when
leasing federal lands for oil and gas development.
Id. § 1712(a); 43 C.F.R. § 1601.0-5(n).
These steps are further governed by the National
Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).
National Environmental Policy Act
the country's “basic national charter for the
protection of the environment.” 40 C.F.R. §
1500.1(a). Its purpose is “to promote efforts which
will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and
biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of [humans],
” 42 U.S.C. § 4321; to ensure that the federal
government uses all practicable means to “assure for
all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically
and culturally pleasing surroundings”; and to
“attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the
environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or
other undesirable and unintended consequences, ” among
other policies, 42 U.S.C. § 4331(b). The Council on
Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) promulgates
regulations that guide federal agencies' compliance with
NEPA. See 40 C.F.R. §§ 1500.1-1508.28.
core, NEPA simply requires that federal agencies consider the
environmental consequences of their actions. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370h; 40 C.F.R. § 1501.1.
Under NEPA, agency decisionmakers must identify and
understand the environmental effects of proposed actions, and
they must inform the public of those effects so that it may
“play a role in both the decisionmaking process and the
implementation of [the agency's] decision.”
Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490
U.S. 332, 349 (1989); see also 42 U.S.C. §
4321; 40 C.F.R. § 1501.1. In other words, “NEPA
was designed ‘to insure a fully informed and
well-considered decision.'” Park Cty. Res.
Council, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 817 F.2d 609,
621 (10th Cir. 1987) (quoting Vt. Yankee Nuclear Power
Corp. v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 435 U.S. 519, 558
(1978)), overruled in part on other grounds by Village of
Los Ranchos De Albuquerque v. Marsh, 956 F.2d 970 (10th
Cir. 1992) . Importantly, “NEPA documents must
concentrate on the issues that are truly significant to the
action in question, rather than amassing needless
detail.” 40 C.F.R. § 1500.1(b). NEPA is not
intended to “generate . . . excellent paperwork,
” but rather to “foster excellent action”
through informed decisionmaking. Id. §
dictates that an agency must prepare an environmental impact
statement (“EIS”) for every “major
[f]ederal action significantly affecting the quality of the
human environment.” 42 U.S.C. § 4332(C); 40 C.F.R.
§ 1502.3. The “detailed” EIS must consider
“the environmental impact of the proposed action”
and “any adverse environmental effects which cannot be
avoided.” 42 U.S.C. § 4332(C)(i)-(ii). It must
also examine “alternatives to the proposed action,
” and the action's direct, indirect and cumulative
effects. 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C)(iii); 40
C.F.R. §§ 1502.16, 1508.7, 1508.8.
every federal action, however, requires the preparation of an
EIS, because not every federal action significantly affects
the quality of the human environment. To determine whether an
EIS is necessary for a particular action, the agency may
prepare an Environmental Assessment (“EA”).
See 40 C.F.R. §§ 1501.4, 1508.9. An EA is
“a ‘concise public document' that
‘[b]riefly provide[s] sufficient evidence and analysis
for determining whether to prepare an [EIS].'”
Dep't of Transp. v. Pub. Citizen, 541 U.S. 752,
757 (2004) (quoting 40 C.F.R. § 1508.9(a)). As in an
EIS, the EA must take a “hard look” at the
environmental consequences of the proposed action, Kleppe
v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390, 410 n.21 (1976), including
its direct, indirect, and cumulative effects, see
EarthReports, Inc. v. FERC, 828 F.3d 949, 953 (D.C. Cir
2016); 40 C.F.R. §§ 1508.9, 1508.25(c). If, after
preparing the EA, the agency determines that an EIS is not
necessary, the agency must issue a finding of no significant
impact (“FONSI”) summarizing its decision.
See 40 C.F.R. §§ 1501.3, 1501.4, 1508.13;
see also AR28440.
multi-stage agency programs, such as the oil and gas
development program at issue here, NEPA provides that the
environmental analysis conducted at each stage may
incorporate by reference previous, related analyses. In NEPA
parlance, this is called “tiering.” NEPA more
precisely defines tiering as the:
coverage of general matters in broader environmental impact
statements (such as national program or policy statements)
with subsequent narrower statements or environmental analyses
(such as regional or basinwide program statements or
ultimately site-specific statements) incorporating by
reference the general discussions and concentrating solely on
the issues specific to the statement subsequently prepared.
40 C.F.R. §§ 1502.20, 1508.28. CEQ regulations
state that “[t]iering is appropriate when the sequence
of statements or analyses is . . . [f]rom a program, plan, or
policy environmental impact statement to a . . .
site-specific statement or analysis.” Id.
other words, “[a]n [EA] prepared in support of an
individual proposed action can be tiered to a programmatic or
other broader-scope [EIS] . . . for a proposed action with
significant effects . . . if the . . . broader [EIS] . . .
fully analyzed those significant effects.” 43 C.F.R.
§ 46.140(c). However, “[t]o the extent that any
relevant analysis in the broader NEPA document is not
sufficiently comprehensive or adequate to support further
decisions, the tiered NEPA document must explain this and
provide any necessary analysis.” Id. §
46.140(b). Put simply, an EA for a specific BLM action may
incorporate program-wide EISs, but must supplement those EISs
with more specific environmental analyses of the action at
issue. See id. § 46.120(d).
Oil and Gas Development Framework
gas development on federal land is typically conducted
through a three-stage process governed by the FLPMA, NEPA,
and the BLM's Land Use Planning Handbook. These stages
are: (1) land use planning; (2) leasing; and (3) drilling.
Land Use Planning Stage
land use planning stage begins when a BLM field office
develops a resource management plan for its assigned
geographic area (the “planning area”). 43 U.S.C.
§ 1712(a); 43 C.F.R. §§ 1601.0-5(n), 1610.1.
The resource management plan determines which portions of the
planning area will be open to oil and gas leasing, and under
what conditions. 43 U.S.C. § 1712(a). The plan typically
incorporates a reasonably foreseeable development scenario
(“RFDS”), which projects the scope and pace of
oil and gas development within the planning area.
See AR55736-46. And by regulation, a resource
management plan must be accompanied by an EIS. See
43 C.F.R. § 1601.0-6.
resource management plan authorizes oil and gas development
on certain land parcels, BLM must sell leases for those
parcels on a quarterly basis. 30 U.S.C. § 226(b)(1)(A);
43 C.F.R. § 3120.1-2. An oil and gas lease confers
“the right to use so much of the leased lands as is
necessary to explore for, drill for, mine, extract, remove
and dispose of all the leased resource in a leasehold.”
43 C.F.R. § 3120.1-2. However, BLM may impose terms and
conditions on the leases, including conditions designed to
protect the environment. Id. §
3101.1-3. At the leasing stage an EIS may be
required, but is not mandated by regulation.
lease is sold, the lessee must apply for a permit to drill
(“APD”) for oil and gas on the leased parcel,
subject to BLM approval. 43 C.F.R. § 3162.3-1(c). BLM
may condition APD approval on the lessee's adoption of
“reasonable measures, ” delimited by the lease
and the lessee's surface use rights, to mitigate the
drilling's environmental impacts. Id. §
3101.1-2. And before approving an APD, BLM must confirm that
the APD complies with the governing resource management plan,
see id. § 1610.5-3, and it must undertake
additional NEPA analysis, id. § 3162.5-1.
Relevant Factual and Procedural Background
claim that BLM failed to comply with NEPA at stage two of the
oil and gas development framework, the leasing stage. They
have challenged BLM's approval and issuance of 473 oil
and gas leases, issued through eleven different lease sales,
covering over 460, 000 acres of land in Wyoming, Utah, and
Colorado. See Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 22; Pls.
Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pls. Mem.”) at 1, ECF
No. 55. BLM determined that these lease sales did not require
the issuance of EISs, so BLM instead issued EAs and FONSIs.
See Pls. Mem. at 7-8. Plaintiffs claim that these
EAs and FONSIs failed to sufficiently account for the
greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions that would be
generated by oil and gas development on the leased parcels.
See generally Am. Comp. Plaintiffs seek to set aside
the leases pending further environmental analyses.
in the action, the Court allowed five entities to intervene
as Defendants: Western Alliance, American Petroleum, the
State of Wyoming, the State of Utah, and the State of
Colorado (the “States”). Mem. & Order
Granting Mot. Intervene (Feb. 14, 2017), ECF No. 46; Mem.
& Order Granting Mot. Intervene (Nov. 23, 2016), ECF No.
19. In November 2016, the Court entered a scheduling order
trifurcating the briefing. Scheduling Order (Nov. 28, 2016),
ECF No. 24. The parties agreed to first brief the merits of
Plaintiffs' claims concerning the Wyoming leasing
decisions, with briefing on the Utah and Colorado leasing
decisions to follow. Id. Accordingly, the current
round of briefing concerns five BLM oil and gas lease sales
held in Wyoming between May 2015 and August 2016 (the
“Wyoming Lease Sales”).
issued 282 leases through the Wyoming Lease Sales,
encompassing approximately 303, 000 acres of federal land
across multiple BLM planning areas. Pls. Mem. at 1. The
leased parcels are managed by ten different BLM field
offices-which are responsible for drafting and implementing
the resource management plans and EISs governing the
parcels-overseen by three district offices. See Fed.
Defs.' Cross-Mot. Summ. J. & Opp'n Pls. Mem.
(“BLM Mem.”) at 7, ECF No. 63. Those three
district offices conducted the lease sales at issue here in
May, August, and November 2015, and May and August
2016. Id. at 7-8. For each lease
sale, each district office involved prepared (1) an EA tiered
to the relevant resources management plans and EISs issued by
field offices at the land use planning stage; and (2) a FONSI
disavowing the need for a new, leasing stage EIS. In total,
therefore, the record contains nine EA/FONSIcombinations, tiered to nineteen
resource management plan/EIS combinations, including resource
management plan amendments. Id. WildEarth
participated in the comment and protest periods for each of
the challenged lease sales.
challenged EAs referenced environmental analyses conducted at
the land use planning stage and, in accordance with
NEPA's tiering requirements, conducted their own analyses
of the specific parcels to be leased. The Court will briefly
summarize the relevant portions of the EAs and then discuss
them in greater detail below.
discuss climate change on a conceptual level. They summarize
Wyoming's current climate, explain the mechanics of
climate change, acknowledge that oil and gas drilling
contributes to climate change, and predict the impact of
climate change on the state's climate. See
AR3411-3415; AR13961-63; AR19502-06; AR28195. Certain EAs
also reference various climate change reports. For instance,
several EAs incorporate reports issued by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(“IPCC”) discussing the impact of GHG emissions
on climate change. See AR3412; AR13962; AR19504;
also include more specific GHG emissions assessments, which
are slightly different across the challenged EAs but are
similarly detailed. The EAs acknowledge that oil and gas
drilling on leased parcels will emit GHGs, and they describe
the sources of those emissions, but they do not attempt to
quantify and project the GHG emissions likely to result from
a given lease sale. For instance, certain EAs acknowledge
that each potential oil or gas well on the leased parcels
could emit approximately 0.00059 metric tons of carbon
dioxide,  but they state that “[t]he [total]
amount of increased emissions cannot be quantified at this
time since it is unknown how many wells might be drilled, the
types of equipment needed if a well were to be completed
successfully . . . or what technologies may be employed by a
given company for drilling any new wells.” AR13989;
see also AR13754; AR28220; AR55015-16. Likewise,
certain EAs incorporate a report quantifying and projecting
consumption-based GHG emissions in Wyoming through 2020-the
“Wyoming GHG Inventory”-but the EAs do not
attempt to apply those projections to particular lease sales.
See AR3412; AR19503.
the EAs acknowledge that GHG emissions may contribute to
climate change, they conclude that “[t]he inconsistency
in results of scientific models used to predict climate
change at the global scale coupled with the lack of
scientific models designed to predict climate change on
regional or local scales, limits the ability to quantify
potential future impacts of decisions made at this
level.” AR3435; see also AR28219. Ultimately,
the EAs conclude that “[w]hen compared to total
national or global emissions, the amount [of GHG emissions]
released as a result of potential production from the
proposed lease tracts would not have a measurable effect,
” AR13989, or would represent only an
“incremental contribution to the total regional and
global GHG emission levels.” AR55023.
the EAs emphasize that the leasing stage is a preliminary
step towards oil and gas drilling, but that specific drilling
projects are not guaranteed to move forward simply because a
given lease was sold. For instance, the EAs state that
“[t]he offering and subsequent issuance of oil and gas
leases is strictly an administrative action, which, in and of
itself, does not cause or directly result in any surface
disturbance.” AR3382; see also, e.g., AR13718;
AR19458; AR54983. The EAs also state that
“BLM cannot determine at the leasing stage whether or
not a nominated parcel will actually be leased, or if it is
leased, whether or not the lease would be explored or
developed.” AR3382; see also AR13718;
AR19458-59. They note that BLM cannot determine exactly where
a well or wells may be drilled or what technology that [sic]
may be used to drill, complete and produce wells, so the
impacts listed [in the EA] are more generic, rather than
site-specific. Additional NEPA and technical engineering
analysis would be conducted prior to approval of an APD to
ensure that the proposal is compliant with all Federal and/or
state rules and regulations.
AR3426; see also AR13744; AR19518; AR55008.
Accordingly, the EAs conclude that the “filing of an
[APD] may be the first useful point at which a site-specific
environmental appraisal [of a lease parcel] can be
undertaken.” AR3382; see also AR13718;
summary, according to Plaintiffs, NEPA required BLM to
conduct a more piercing consideration of the consequences of
oil and gas drilling before it authorized the Wyoming Lease
Sales. More specifically, Plaintiffs argue that the EAs and
FONSIs issued in conjunction with the Wyoming Lease Sales
violated NEPA because BLM failed to take a “hard
look” at GHG emissions and the climate change impact of
those emissions. See generally Am. Compl; Pls. Mem.
at 2. Plaintiffs ask the Court to (1) declare that the
leasing authorizations violated NEPA; (2) vacate the leases;
and (3) enjoin BLM from approving APDs for those leases until
new NEPA analyses have been conducted. Am. Compl. at 39-40.
Defendants, on the other hand, argue that Plaintiffs lack
standing to challenge one of the lease sales, and that
BLM's environmental analyses were sufficient. See
generally Pls. Mem.; BLM Mem.; Mem. American Petroleum
Opp'n Pls. Mem. Supp. Cross-Mot. Summ. J. (“API
Mem.”), ECF No. 60-1; Western Alliance Statement P.
& A. Supp. Cross-Mot. Summ. J. Opp'n Pls. Mem.
(“Western Alliance Mem.”), ECF No. 61-1; Mem.
Supp. Wyo. Colo. & Utah's Cross-Mot. Summ. J. Resp.
Pls. Mem. (“States Mem.”), ECF No. 62.
before the Court are the parties' ripe cross-motions for
summary judgment. See Pls. Mem.; BLM Mem.; API Mem.;
Western Alliance Mem.; States Mem. As explained below, the
Court concludes that Plaintiffs have standing to bring this
action, and that BLM did not properly discharge its NEPA
obligations. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs'
motion for summary judgment in part and denies
Defendants' motions for summary judgment. The Court also
denies the Institute's motion to file an amicus brief,
because the Institute's arguments largely mirror
typical case, a court may grant summary judgment to a movant
who “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). But when assessing
administrative action, at the summary judgment stage
“the district judge sits as an appellate tribunal,
” Am. Bioscience, Inc. v. Thompson, 269 F.3d
1077, 1083 (D.C. Cir. 2001), limited to determining whether,
as a matter of law, the evidence in the administrative record
supports the agency's decision, Citizens for
Responsibility & Ethics in Wash. (“CREW”) v.
SEC, 916 F.Supp.2d 141, 145 (D.D.C. 2013). In such a
case, the complaint “actually presents no factual
allegations, but rather only arguments about the legal
conclusion to be drawn about the agency action.”
Rempfer v. Sharfstein, 583 F.3d 860, 865 (D.C. Cir.
2009) (quoting Marshall Cty. Health Care Auth. v.
Shalala, 988 F.2d 1221, 1226 (D.C. Cir. 1993)).
Accordingly, the Court's review “is based on the
agency record and limited to determining whether the agency
acted arbitrarily or capriciously.” Id.
(citing 5 U.S.C. § 706).
agency action is arbitrary and capricious if:
the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not
intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an
important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for
its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the
agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to
a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.
Del. Riverkeeper Network v. FERC, 753 F.3d 1304,
1313 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Motor Vehicle Mfrs.
Ass'n of the U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto.
Ins., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983)). This standard applies
when assessing an agency's compliance with NEPA.
WildEarth Guardians v. Jewell, 738 F.3d 298, 319
(D.C. Cir. 2013) (citing Theodore Roosevelt Conservation
P'ship v. Salazar, 616 F.3d 497, 507 (D.C. Cir.
2010); Nevada v. Dep't of Energy, 457 F.3d 78,
87 (D.C. Cir. 2006)).
this standard, the Court has a “limited” role in
reviewing an agency's decision not to issue an EIS: it
must merely confirm “that no arguably significant
consequences have been ignored.” Pub. Citizen v.
Nat'l Highway Traffic Safety Admin., 848 F.2d 256,
267 (D.C. Cir. 1988). The Court's task “is not to
‘flyspeck' [BLM's] environmental analysis for
‘any deficiency no matter how minor.'”
Sierra Club v. FERC (“Sierra Club
(Freeport)”), 827 F.3d 36, 46 (D.C. Cir. 2016)
(quoting Theodore Roosevelt, 661 F.3d at 75).
Rather, NEPA's “rule of reason” dictates that
an agency's assessment is sufficient unless its
“deficiencies are significant enough to undermine
informed public comment and informed decisionmaking.”
Sierra Club v. FERC (“Sierra Club II”),
867 F.3d 1357, 1368 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (citing Pub.
Citizen, 541 U.S. at 767; Nevada, 457 F.3d at
INSTITUTE FOR POLICY INTEGRITY'S AMICUS BRIEF
have wide discretion in deciding whether to grant a third
party leave to file an amicus brief. In the Matter of the
Search of Info. Associated with [redacted]@mac.com that is
Stored at Premises Controlled by Apple, Inc., 13
F.Supp.3d 157, 167 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Nat'l
Ass'n of Home Builders v. U.S. Army Corps of
Eng'rs, 519 F.Supp.2d 89, 93 (D.D.C. 2007)). An
amicus brief is appropriate where “the brief will
assist the judges by presenting ideas, arguments, theories,
insights, facts, or data that are not to be found in the
parties' briefs.” Voices for Choices v. Ill.
Bell Tel. Co., 339 F.3d 542, 545 (7th Cir. 2003);
see also Jin v. Ministry of State Sec'y, 557
F.Supp.2d 131, 137 (D.D.C. 2008) (holding that an amicus
brief is appropriate where “the amicus has unique
information or perspective that can help the court beyond the
help that the lawyers for the parties are able to
provide” (quoting Ryan v. CFTC, 125 F.3d 1062,
1064 (7th Cir. 1997))).
while the Institute clearly has expertise regarding the use
of economic analysis in conducting environmental assessments,
the Court does not believe that its amicus brief presents
arguments that are not already found in the parties'
briefs. The Institute seeks to present three arguments: (1)
BLM incorrectly calculated the per-well emissions estimates
cited in the EAs; (2) BLM improperly failed to monetize the
impact of climate change resulting from GHG emissions; and
(3) BLM improperly failed to “follow basic economic
logic” and account for the increased demand for oil and
gas that would result from production on the leased parcels.
Br. Institute Supp. Pls. Mem. at 3, ECF No. 71-1. Plaintiffs
raised the first two arguments in their briefing, albeit in
slightly less detail, and the Court will address those
arguments below. The third argument is a slight variation of
Plaintiffs' argument that BLM failed to account for the
GHG emissions generated by downstream consumption of oil and
gas. The Court will also address this argument below.
it does not appear that the Institute participated in the
public comment periods for any of the challenged EAs. The
Court finds it unhelpful to consider its third argument now,
past the point when BLM could have considered the argument in
its decisionmaking process, and after the parties negotiated
a briefing schedule without the Institute's
participation. Because the Institute's amicus brief does
not have “unique information or perspective that can
help the [C]ourt, ” the Court denies the
Institute's motion to file that brief. Jin, 557
F.Supp.2d at 137.
challenge nine separate EAs, arguing that “[e]ach of
these EAs share common deficiencies, and none took a hard
look at the impacts of GHG pollution and climate change
impacts, as required by NEPA.” Pls. Mem. at 1.
Defendants contend that the EAs' GHG emissions
assessments were sufficient, given that they were conducted
at the leasing stage when development of the parcels was
uncertain. Defendants also contend that Plaintiffs lack
standing to challenge the August 2016 lease sale. The Court
will discuss Plaintiffs' standing, then the merits of the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. It concludes
that Plaintiffs have standing to challenge all five lease
sales, and that BLM's leasing stage environmental
assessments were inadequate under NEPA. The Court therefore
grants Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in part
and denies Defendants' motions.
Court begins, as it must, by confirming that Plaintiffs have
standing to bring this action. Al-Zahrani v.
Rodriguez, 669 F.3d 315, 318 (D.C. Cir. 2012). The
doctrine of standing derives from Article III of the U.S.
Constitution, which confines the federal courts to
adjudicating actual “Cases” and
“Controversies, ” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2,
cl. 1, and from “the separation-of-powers principles
underlying that limitation.” Lexmark Int'l,
Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1377,
1386 (2014). Thus, a showing of standing “is an
essential and unchanging” predicate to any exercise of
this Court's jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defs. of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992).
a party has established standing if it shows that, at the
time the complaint was filed: (1) “the party has
suffered an ‘injury in fact, '” (2)
“the injury is ‘fairly traceable' to the
challenged action of the defendant, ” and (3) “it
is ‘likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the
injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.'”
Grocery Mfrs. Ass'n v. EPA, 693 F.3d 169, 174
(D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at
560-61). The standing inquiry is modified, however, in cases
where a plaintiff alleges a violation of his or her
procedural rights, as when a plaintiff sues over an
agency's failure to conduct an EIS under NEPA. In such
cases, the plaintiff must “show that the interest
asserted is more than a mere ‘general interest [in the
alleged procedural violation] common to all members of the
public,' the plaintiff must show that the government act
performed without the procedure in question will cause a
distinct risk to a particularized interest of the
plaintiff.” Fla. Audubon Soc'y v. Bentsen,
94 F.3d 658, 664 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (alteration in original)
(quoting Ex parte Levitt, 302 U.S. 633, 634 (1937)).
Although such plaintiffs need not show that, but-for the
procedural defect, the agency would have reached a different
decision, they must establish “a causal relationship
between the final agency action and the alleged
injuries.” Ctr. for Law & Educ. v. U.S.
Dep't of Educ., 396 F.3d 1152, 1160 (D.C. Cir.
2005). This causation prong of the standing inquiry looks to
the “causal nexus between the agency action and the
asserted injury, while redressability centers on the causal
connection between the asserted injury and judicial
relief.” Id. at 1160 n.2 (quoting Freedom
Republicans v. FEC, 13 F.3d 412, 418 (D.C. Cir. 1994)).
as the parties invoking this Court's jurisdiction, bear
the burden of establishing all three elements of standing.
WildEarth Guardians v. Jewell, 738 F.3d at 305. At
the summary judgment stage, Plaintiffs must show that, taking
their facts as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in
their favor, a reasonable juror could find that they have
standing. See Dominguez v. UAL Corp., 666 F.3d 1359,
1362 (D.C. Cir. 2012). To meet this burden, Plaintiffs must
put forth specific facts-not mere allegations-that show a
“substantial probability” that Plaintiffs were
injured, that Defendants caused the injury, and that a
favorable decision of this Court could redress that injury.
Sierra Club v. EPA, 292 F.3d 895, 898-99 (D.C. Cir.
plaintiff is an organization suing on behalf of its
members-as is the case here- the organization has
“representative” or “associational”
standing if: “(1) at least one of its members would
have standing to sue in his own right; (2) the interests the
association seeks to protect are germane to its purpose, and
(3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested
requires that an individual member of the association
participate in the lawsuit.” Id. at
898.Ultimately, the Court need only find that
one plaintiff has standing to allow a case to proceed to the
merits. See Comcast Corp. v. FCC,579 F.3d 1, 6
(D.C. Cir. 2009) ...