Federal NPR-A lease sale draws lawsuit
An Alaska environmental law group has filed its second lawsuit this week against the Trump administration’s Interior secretary and his department, claiming that the environmental effects of a lease sale they conducted last year weren’t properly assessed.
Trustees for Alaska announced its U.S. District Court suit against Ryan Zinke, the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management on Friday. The group is asking that a judge throw out BLM’s December lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and declare that the bureau violated federal law in conducting the sale.
More than half of the land in the Indiana-sized NPR-A, a total of 900 tracts, was put up for bid during the sale – a sharp jump from the 145 tracts offered in 2016 under President Barack Obama. The state’s congressional delegation praised the sale, even as environmental groups blasted the decision.
The lawsuit claims that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedure Act in failing to conduct a proper environmental assessment statement for the sale. According to the suit, the bureau was still working on a mitigation plan for the lease sale’s impacts on subsistence in northeastern areas of NPR-A at the time of the sale.
“BLM failed to take a hard look at the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the 2017 lease sale,” attorneys wrote. “BLM failed to conduct an adequate assessment of the environmental impacts of all past, present, and reasonably foreseeable activities on subsistence, wildlife, and other resources in and around the Reserve.”
Earlier this week, Trustees for Alaska sued Interior and Zinke along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a planned land swap in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge enabling the construction of a road between the villages of King Cove and Cold Bay.
The Northern Alaska Environmental Center, The Wilderness Society and the Alaska Wilderness League were all plaintiffs in Friday’s suit. The society and league were also among nine plaintiffs in Wednesday’s King Cove suit.
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