The United States leads the world in natural gas production, and by the end of 2014, domestic oil production had reached its highest rate in thirty years. While this U.S. natural gas production occurred on both private and public property, this In Brief focuses specifically on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM oversees more than one hundred thousand onshore oil and natural gas wells on federal land. In 2008, the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) challenged a series of BLM oil and gas leases in Montana. MEIC alleged that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider methane emission reduction strategies in its leases.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, one of the worst environmental man-made disasters and the largest ever oil spill in the United States, scholars and government investigators analyzed the offshore regulatory regime and its implementation in search of failures that led to the accident and possible solutions. Relatively few critiques of the regulatory regime discussed strict liability for environmental damages from oil spills. Enacted in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, this regime is a part of the solution, but is not a complete answer. One issue not addressed by this liability regime is the judgment-proof problem—some injurers are unable to pay the full amount for which they have been found legally liable because they simply do not have the economic assets.
Since the 1970s, the Gulf of Mexico has suffered from human-produced nutrient pollution. The ongoing pollution from the Mississippi River Basin has created a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that harms biodiversity and the fishing and tourism industries. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected a petition from environmental groups for federal water quality standards and refused to make a determination about whether the pollution problem necessitated federal intervention, environmental organizations sued.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) prohibits the sale or distribution of any pesticide without prior registration and approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA may deny applications for pesticide registration when “necessary to prevent unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” On September 10, 2015, the Ninth Circuit found EPA did not adequately research the effects of the chemical sulfoxaflor on bee populations in Pollinator Stewardship Council v. EPA. The court determined that EPA failed to follow its internal standard for data collection.