Two lawsuits challenge NPR-A lease sale

NPR-A is west of Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Map: USGS

Two coalitions of environmental groups filed separate lawsuits Friday challenging the federal government’s December lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

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The government offered 10 million acres at that sale – all the land within NPR-A that was designated eligible for development. It was the largest lease sale ever offered in the Indiana-sized reserve west of Prudhoe Bay.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said at the time he was fulfilling a pledge he made to boost the flow through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. But the sale drew only seven bids, covering less than one percent of the area offered.

One lawsuit takes a traditional approach. It alleges the Bureau of Land Management was required to conduct a new environmental study before the sale. Attorneys at Trustees for Alaska filed the complaint on behalf of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.

The BLM said last fall it was relying on environmental studies of NPR-A conducted during the Obama administration.

Earthjustice attorneys, in their suit, say the BLM should have considered the climate impacts of potential oil and gas production that could result from such a large sale. The plaintiffs in that case include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.