WEA sues BLM for not holding quarterly oil, gas lease sales

The Western Energy Alliance has sued the US Bureau of Land Management for discontinuing quarterly onshore oil and gas lease sales. The Aug. 11 action in US District Court for New Mexico asks that the US Department of the Interior agency be directed to abandon its current leasing schedule immediately, rescind guidance documents and instruction documents that implement it, and promptly adopt one that complies with the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act’s terms.

“Through protests and petitions, the Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement is trying to coerce BLM into violating the law by stopping all leasing on federal lands,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice-president, government and public affairs, at the Denver-based regional association of independent producers. “Yet without doing anything, activists could achieve the same goal just by leaving BLM to its own devices. [WEA] is simply asking the courts to compel BLM to follow decades-old law and hold quarterly lease sales in every oil and gas state.

“For example, today’s lease sale in Colorado was cancelled because BLM can’t get through the bureaucratic process in time,” Sgamma said. “Likewise, in New Mexico, only two lease sales were held in 2015 and one planned in 2016, despite the requirement to hold four every year. Who needs loud protests when bureaucrats are doing the same thing by simply not doing their job?”

Environment organizations and other leasing opponents began to protest outside BLM’s lease sales in 2015 in efforts to stop them. The agency’s Utah office abruptly postponed one in November the day before it was to have been held “to allow the time needed to better accommodate the high level of public interest in attending the sale,” it said (OGJ Online, Nov. 17, 2015).

BLM’s Eastern States office postponed one it was scheduled to hold in Washington, DC, the following month with 3 days’ notice, and said the nine parcels that would have been offered would be included in the next scheduled sale on Mar. 17 (OGJ Online, Dec. 7, 2015). The office announced on July 17 that it would inaugurate an internet-based auction system on Sept. 20 with an online-only lease sale.

WEA said Mark S. Barron and Alexander K. Obrecht of Baker & Hostetler LLP in Denver—who delivered a victory for the oil and gas industry when a federal judge in Wyoming set BLM’s final hydraulic fracturing rule aside—are representing the organization in the latest action (OGJ Online, June 22, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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