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WildEarth Guardians Moves to Block Public Lands Fracking Giveaway in Montana

Trump Selling Lands in Powder River Basin; Nearly 70,000 Acres of Western U.S. Public Lands to be Auctioned to Oil and Gas Industry

Billings, MT—Moving to defend the climate and cherished public lands in the American West, WildEarth Guardians late last week filed an appeal to overturn President Trump’s plans to give away public lands for fracking in Montana.

“President Trump is wasting no time taking public lands from Americans and giving them to oil and gas industry executives,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Make no mistake, we’re going to do everything we can to thwart this scheme to sacrifice our climate, our clean air and water, and our public lands birthright for short-sighted fracking.”

At issue are nearly 70,000 acres of public lands in southeastern Montana’s Powder River Basin.  These lands include both publicly owned surface and publicly owned minerals in Big Horn, Custer, Carter, Fallon, Garfield, Powder River, and Rosebud Counties.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is proposing to auction off these lands to the oil and gas industry even though the agency itself has disclosed that industry does not intend to develop oil and gas wells on the majority of the 70,000 acres. According to the agency’s own analysis, development is “speculative” and at most, 15 oil and gas wells may developed.

“Our federal government is giving away our public lands knowing full well it will lose the gamble,” said Nichols.  “This isn’t energy independence, it’s a liquidation of our American birthright.”

Late last week, WildEarth Guardians filed an appeal (called a “protest” by the Bureau of Land Management) calling for the cancellation of this public lands auction.

These lands stand to be auctioned off by the Bureau of Land Management for as little as $1.50 an acre.  While touted by industry as needed for oil and gas production, the reality is, companies are not even producing form the majority of public lands they’ve acquired over the years.

According to most recent statistics from the Bureau of Land Management, only 33% of all public lands in Montana sold for oil and gas development are actually producing.

“This isn’t about jobs or energy independence, this is a land grab, pure and simple,” said Nichols. “The oil and gas industry is just looking to pad its assets, acquiring and controlling our public lands so it can frack at will at our expense.”

The leases come as the Trump Administration has so far sold and is planning to sell nearly a million acres of public lands for fracking throughout the American West in 2017.  These include more lands in Montana, as well as Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. 

In 2016, WildEarth Guardians filed suit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to address the climate impacts of fracking on public lands.  In its appeal filed last week, Guardians continued to challenge the agency for turning its back on the need to curtail carbon pollution.

“All the politics can’t and won’t change the fact that climate change remains real,” added Nichols. “President Trump’s efforts to give away lands to the oil and gas industry stands as an enormous threat to our public lands heritage and our climate.”

A map of the lands slated to be auctioned off by the Trump Administration in 2017, including maps of the Montana lands targeted by WildEarth Guardians, is available here >>


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