Environmental Court Cases: Friends of the Earth v. Haaland

Natural Justice have developed a series of summaries of significant court cases from across the world related to climate change and rights of nature. These are designed for the public, policy makers and practitioners and provide a snapshot of cases that are being brought to courts in order to advance the protection and rights of nature, including seeking ways to hold governments accountable for their international commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

Friends of the Earth v. Haaland

In January 2021, the Trump Administration announced a lease sale for oil and gas production and development in the Gulf of Mexico. When President Biden took office, the new administration rescinded this lease sale. However, in August 2021, the Biden administration then reinstated the lease sale by implementing a new Determination of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) Adequacy based on the same NEPA analysis that the Trump administration used.

The plaintiffs filed a suit alleging violations of NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), highlighting the absurdity of the claims that burning the, up to, 1.12 billion barrels of oil and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that would result from the lease sale “will not contribute to climate change” and will instead “reduce greenhouse gas emissions” compared to the “no-go” alternative. The plaintiffs alleged that the foreign substitution effect (that foreign sources would replace U.S. sources if the lease sale does not take place) on which the analysis relies was not supported by available factual information. Further, the plaintiffs argued that the NEPA analysis, which was nearly five years old, must be updated to include new available information that additional oil and gas leasing will exacerbate the climate crisis to an extent that was not considered in the previous NEPA analysis.

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