(Reuters) -Environmental groups sued the Biden administration on Wednesday, seeking to block oil and gas lease sales in eight states as they kicked off in Wyoming.
The legal action comes as the Department of the Interior holds auctions that were effectively compelled by a federal judge last year. The ruling a year ago blocked the government's efforts to suspend federal oil and gas leasing over its climate impacts, a setback to President Joe Biden's climate agenda.
Interior has said it is proceeding with the sales because of the court order, but with sharply diminished acreage and steeper royalties for oil and gas companies than auctions held by previous administrations.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington D.C., alleges that Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the law by failing to adequately analyze the sales' impact on climate change.
"BLM continues to recklessly lease large swaths of the western United States to oil and gas development without comprehensively reviewing these connected actions and analyzing the severity of the resulting climate impacts from the addition of thousands of tons of (greenhouse gas) emissions into the atmosphere," the groups said in the complaint.
Western Energy Alliance, a drilling industry trade group, said the lawsuit was baseless because federal law "specifies that oil and natural gas is one of the primary uses of public lands."
"The environmental lobby won't be satisfied unless they get 100% no new leasing and development," Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said in a statement.
The ten groups that filed the suit include the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.
The planned sales will run on Wednesday and Thursday and cover nearly 130,000 acres. Most of the acreage is in Wyoming, a major oil producing state, while the rest are sprinkled across Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.
The two-day Wyoming sale kicked off on Wednesday, with mixed results, according to online auction platform EnergyNet. About a third of the 105 parcels that closed for bidding on Wednesday received no bids.
The sale had generated more than $12.5 million in high bids at the close of bidding on Wednesday, which included $8.9 million for one 1,480-acre parcel in Converse County.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los AngelesEditing by Matthew Lewis and Aurora Ellis)