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Zinke Targets Southeastern Montana With Massive Federal Oil and Gas Giveaway

More Than 100,000 Acres, Including the Tongue River Valley, on the Chopping Block

Denver – WildEarth Guardians, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Indian People’s Action, Montana Environmental Information Center, Northern Plains Resource Council, Protect the Beartooth Front, Western Environmental Law Center, and 350 Montana, pushed back against Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s plans to giveaway 100,000+ acres in southeastern Montana for fracking. 

The conservation groups filed extensive comments yesterday highlighting substantial flaws in the U.S Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposal to auction off these lands at a June 12, 2018 oil and gas lease sale. 

“Our public lands are being given away to private interests at an alarming rate,” said Becca Fischer, Climate Guardian at WildEarth Guardians and author of the comments. “No place, not even in Zinke’s home state, is safe from the BLM’s plans to industrialize the American West for fracking. Unless Guardians and others can stop it, the iconic Tongue River Valley in southeastern Montana will pay the price for Zinke’s shortsightedness.” 

The lease sale comes as the pace of federal public lands giveaways to the oil and gas industry is set to drastically increase in 2018. In 2017, the BLM planned to auctioned off more than a million acres of public lands for fracking in six Western states. The BLM’s lease sales for the first half of 2018 in those same states already total almost 1 million acres. 

“Not only are Zinke and Trump privatizing the American West, they are cutting the public out of any opportunity to speak out against these lease sales,” said Fischer. “There is no longer even the pretense that the American public has a say in what happens to our public lands.” 

Just last week, BLM issued a policy document, instruction memorandum 2018-034, which allows BLM state offices to forgo public comment periods on lease sales and cuts the time period to administratively appeal, or protest, oil and gas sales from 30 days to 10. 

“At a time when we should be embracing clean, renewable energy, Zinke and Trump are entrenching us in 40 more years of dirty oil and gas and the climate pollution that comes with it,” said Fischer. “It’s past time that the federal government looked at the harmful climate emissions that come with its decisions to frack anywhere at any time.” 

Oil and gas leasing on public lands is also a major contributor to global warming in the United States.  Leasing opens the door for oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more fossil fuel burning.  Reports indicate 20% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to oil and gas development from public lands and waters. 

Unless the BLM makes drastic changes to its environmental analysis, Guardians plans to protest the BLM’s decision to approve the June lease sale when it comes out in May.


 

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