Skip to Content

Centre for Environmental Rights - Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

Support Us Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

Virtual Library

Home>Judgments>Foreign and International Courts

WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club v United States Bureau of Land Management and others

15 September 2017

United States Court of Appeals (Tenth Circuit)

Case No. 15-8106

Date: 15 September 2017

Judges: Briscoe, McKay and Balrock

In this matter, the WildEarth Guradians and the Sierra Club (the petitioners) challenged the decision of the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to grant new mining leases for four coal mining operations in Wyoming. In particular, the petitioners challenged the finding of the BLM that a decision not to grant the said mining leases would not result in decreased carbon dioxide emissions because it would simply mean that the coal would be sourced from elsewhere as demand is stable. The petitioners argued that if the said leases were not granted, it will be very difficult for US or international coal mines to replace that quantity of coal at the same price, making other sources of electricity, with lower carbon dioxide emission rates more competitive with coal.

The court found that the decision of the BLM was arbitrary and capricious as the BLM failed to properly consider the environmental effects of all of the alternatives before it and therefore ordered the BLM to amend the environmental impact assessment study of the four leases. However, the court did not vacate the relevant leases, chiefly because mining on three of the four leases had already commenced and because the decision was challenged on such a narrow basis.

Download the judgment  

See also a press release put out by WildEarth Guardians about the case.

Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

Report a Violation

National Environmental Crimes & Incidents Hotline (24 hours): 0800 205 005

In addition, there are a number of national and provincial hotlines that may be useful.

Contact us

  • Address:Cape Town: Second Floor, Springtime Studios, 1 Scott Road, Observatory, 7925, Cape Town - View map
  • Address:Johannesburg: Ninth Floor, Southpoint Corner, 87 De Korte Street, Braamfontein, 2001, Johannesburg - View map