Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 6, 2017

Contact:  Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 925-2521,
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians (303) 437-7663

Legal Protest Targets Trump Plans to Auction 32,000 Acres of Public Lands in Wyoming for Drilling, Fracking

CHEYENNE, Wyo.— Moving to defend American public lands, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity late last week challenged a Bureau of Land Management scheme to auction off 32,965 acres of federal land in Wyoming for drilling and fracking. The auction is planned for June 22.

In an administrative appeal (also called a “protest”), the groups confronted the BLM's public lands sale and the threat that new fracking poses to the climate, clean air, public health and the region's wildlife. 

“More fracking will only worsen air pollution in a part of Wyoming that's already exceeding national air quality standards meant to protect people,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, senior attorney at the Center. “Destroying public land for fracking at the cost of human health and our climate future is terrible public policy.”

Already this area of Wyoming, called the Upper Green River region, has suffered smog levels comparable to big cities' because of rampant oil and gas development. 

“This is nothing short of a public lands giveaway at the expense of our health and our climate,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians' climate and energy program director. “President Trump may try to hand over our lands to the likes of Exxon and BP, but today and throughout the next four years, we're taking a stand and sending the message that we will not allow our public lands to be handed over the oil and gas industry without a fight.”

The proposal in Wyoming comes as the Trump administration appears to be ramping up public lands oil and gas lease sales while rolling back public health and environmental protections.

All told, nearly a million acres of public lands are slated to be sold to the oil and gas industry in 2017, including public lands in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Ryan Zinke, the incoming secretary of the interior, has vowed to implement Trump's vision of opening more federal lands to the fossil fuel industry.

Ten percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are linked to federally approved oil and gas development. A report by the Center for Biological Diversity and others has found that public land sales to the oil and gas industry could lead to the release of 89 billion metric tons of carbon emissions, equal to nearly 15 years of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.

Most of the lands up for sale in Wyoming's planned auction in June are located in southern and southwestern Wyoming, a remote region of high desert that contains some of the largest contiguous tracts of undeveloped public lands managed by the BLM. 

Aside from concerns over air pollution, Friday's protest also charges that the BLM's plan fails to disclose whether fracking would occur in greater sage grouse habitat. It also fails to conform to new — though inadequate — resource management standards designed to protect the bird. 

Wyoming supports 35 percent to 40 percent of the nation's greater sage grouse population and is a source population for the more isolated grouse populations in Montana and the Dakotas.

Download the protest here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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