US Climate and Health Alliance

Physicians For Social Responsibility Sues Department of the Interior

August 29, 2016

Physicians for Social Responsibility and WildEarth Guardians sued the Department of Interior to require a sweeping environmental review of climate impacts of oil and gas leasing on federal lands. While that analysis is underway, the suit would halt permits for new drilling on 397 leases extended since early 2015, thus protecting almost 380,000 acres.

The lawsuit applies to oil and gas lease sales in three western states—Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.  It would require the government to reject permit applications to drill on those leases until a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) is completed.

The PEIS would analyze the “direct, indirect, and cumulative effects” on the climate of the leasing authorizations cited in the suit. It would also – and just as importantly – analyze those same effects across the entire Oil and Gas Leasing Program operated by the Bureau of Land Management.

The suit marks the first effort to require a reckoning of the climate effects of oil and gas operations on federally owned lands.  Similar analysis is being done on coal mining on public lands, with a moratorium established on further coal leases in the interim.

“Americans want and expect their public lands to be managed to protect pristine air and crystal clear water, and to protect us from the health impacts of climate change as well,” stated Dr. Catherine Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Those health impacts — from extreme weather events to lethal heat waves — make clear we must draw the line.  We can’t allow this drilling.  Its climate health impacts are far too great.”  Read the press statement here.