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WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

870 F.3d 1222 (2017)

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WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

870 F.3d 1222 (2017)

Facts

The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (defendant) approved four coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The two mines for which the leases were granted accounted for nearly 20 percent of the United States’ annual domestic coal production. Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), BLM prepared an environmental-impact statement (EIS) comparing its preferred action —approving the leases— to a no-action alternative in which the leases would not be approved. The EIS concluded that approving the leases rather than disapproving them would result in no appreciable difference in the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions. Key to this conclusion was BLM’s assumption (the perfect-substitution assumption) that if the leases were not approved, sufficient coal would be mined from other sources to meet demand without increasing prices. The EIS provided no evidence to support its assumption, nor did it acknowledge information in one of the EIS’s primary resources that directly contradicted the assumption. Without supporting evidence, the perfect-substitution assumption violated the principle of supply and demand. According to this economic principle, absent an adequate substitution source, the price of coal would increase, reducing consumption. Based on the EIS, BLM issued a record of decision (ROD) approving each of the four leases. WildEarth Guardians (plaintiff) and the Sierra Club (plaintiff) challenged the lease approvals, arguing that BLM’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. The district court found for BLM, and WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Briscoe, J.)

Concurrence (Baldock, J.)

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