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Guardians v. Zinke

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 19, 2019

WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ZINKE, et al., Defendants, WESTERN ENERGY ALLIANCE, et al., Defendant-Intervenors

          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

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Climate 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.

         Before 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 Institute's motion.[1]

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         1. Mineral Leasing Act

         Under 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.

         2. Federal Land Policy and Management Act

         The 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”).

         3. National Environmental Policy Act

         NEPA is 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.

         At its 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. § 1500.1(c).

         NEPA 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.[2] 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C)(iii); 40 C.F.R. §§ 1502.16, 1508.7, 1508.8.[3]

         Not 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.

         For 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. § 1508.28(a).

         In 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).

         B. Oil and Gas Development Framework

         Oil and 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.

         1. Land Use Planning Stage

         The 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.[4]

         2. Leasing Stage

         If a 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.[5] At the leasing stage an EIS may be required, but is not mandated by regulation.

         3. Drilling Stage

         Once a 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.

         C. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs 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. Id.

         Early 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”).

         BLM 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.[6] 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.[7] Id. at 7-8.[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[9]/FONSI[10]combinations, 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.[11]

         The 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.

         The EAs 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; AR34663.

         The EAs 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, [12] 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.

         Although 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.

         Finally, 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; AR19458; AR28179.

         In 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.

         Now 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 Plaintiffs' arguments.[13]

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         In a 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.”[14] Id. (citing 5 U.S.C. § 706).

         An 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)).

         Applying 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 93).

         IV. INSTITUTE FOR POLICY INTEGRITY'S AMICUS BRIEF

         Courts 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))).

         Here, 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.

         Moreover, 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.

         V. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs 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.

         A. Standing

         The 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).

         Ordinarily, 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)).

         Plaintiffs, 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. 2002).

         Where a 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.[15]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) ...


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