Hiking out of Dalton Lake in Idaho – Photo from Getty Images
A judge in Idaho put a stop to nearly 1 million acres of oil and gas leases on federal lands, after the Trump administration limited public input on the leases, the Washington Post reports. The ruling came in on February 27, after environmentalists challenged the leasing policy as part of an effort to stop drilling in greater sage-grouse habitat. The Trump administration lifted protections for the sage-grouse last March, in order to provide more leasing opportunities for oil, gas and mining industries, the Washington Post says.
The ruling was made by U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush, who called the policy limiting public input “arbitrary and capricious.” That policy rolled out in January 2018, after the Bureau of Land Management sent out an instruction memorandum to “simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens, to expedite the offering of lands for lease, and to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act…”
In an email to the Washington Post, Drew Caputo, a lawyer for the environmental group Earthjustice, said that the administration “almost treat the public like an inconvenience that might slow down or get in the way of them passing out special interest favors to their friends in the industry.” He added, “That’s anti-democratic, and it shows what they really think about the public. It’s also illegal, which is one of the reasons they keep losing environmental cases in court.”
Due to the court ruling, the 30-day public comment period has now been reinstated.