Energy companies sue BLM for failing to hold lease sales

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2016 - Oil and gas companies are suing the Bureau of Land Management for failing to conduct quarterly land lease sales as required by law.

In a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Washington, D.C., the Western Energy Alliance said that over the past few years, BLM has failed to comply with the Mineral Leasing Act's mandate that it offer lease sales quarterly in each state where “eligible lands” exist.

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“BLM State Offices frequently schedule, postpone, cancel, delay, or organize lease sales in a manner that results in more than three months passing without any parcel in an individual state being offered for lease,” the complaint says.

The result, says the suit, is that “many Alliance members have had projects held up for years because of unnecessary and illegal delays at the leasing stage.”

The alliance said its lawsuit is essentially a “counter” to a campaign conducted by conservation groups to “keep it in the ground.”

“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, WEA's vice president of government and public affairs. “Yet without doing anything, activists could achieve the same goal just by leaving BLM to its own devices. Western Energy Alliance is simply asking the courts to compel BLM to follow decades-old law and hold quarterly lease sales in every oil and natural gas state.”

Sgamma cited today's cancellation of a lease sale in Colorado “because BLM can't get through the bureaucratic process in time. 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?”

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According to the lawsuit, BLM's New Mexico State Office - which also holds jurisdiction over Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas - “will conduct no more than three lease sales during fiscal year 2016,” which ends Sept. 30. State offices for Montana and the Dakotas, Colorado, Eastern States (Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and all other states east of the Mississippi River), and Utah will not conduct more than two lease sales, and the Wyoming office no more than three.

In addition to seeking an order requiring that BLM follow the MLA's leasing mandate, WEA is asking the court to order BLM to release documents related to the leasing program. Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to BLM have so far yielded nothing.

A spokesperson for BLM did not respond to an Agri-Pulse request for comment by our deadline.

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