Description: Action to compel Bureau of Land Management to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales for public lands.
Western Energy Alliance v. Zinke
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 12/18/2017 Opinion Download Opinion issued reversing denial of conservation groups' motion to intervene. Reversing District Court, Tenth Circuit Said Conservation Groups Could Intervene in Lawsuit Seeking Quarterly Mineral Lease Sales. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s denial of conservation groups’ motion to intervene in an oil and gas trade association’s lawsuit that sought to compel the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hold quarterly lease sales for federal minerals. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the federal district court for the District of New Mexico had erred in denying the groups’ motion to intervene as of right. Like the district court, the Tenth Circuit found that the groups’ motion to intervene had been timely. The Tenth Circuit also agreed with the district court that the groups had an interest in protecting public lands from the impacts of oil and gas development. The Tenth Circuit concluded, however, that the conservation groups had an additional interest in preserving reforms they had worked implement, including a “Leasing Reform Policy” (Policy). While the district court had concluded that the lawsuit did not seek to set aside or modify the Policy, the Tenth Circuit found that “the district court overlooked two key points”: (1) that increasing the frequency of lease sales could require BLM to abandon existing policies and (2) that the trade association asked the court to require BLM to revise or rescind the Policy if the court found that the Policy violated the Mineral Leasing Act. The Tenth Circuit therefore found that the conservation groups’ interests might be impaired or impeded by the pending case and further concluded that BLM could not adequately represent the groups’ interests. In finding that the federal defendants could not adequately represent the groups’ interests, the court cited executive orders signed by President Trump that directed review of agency regulations that potentially burden development of oil, gas, and other domestic energy resources. 04/19/2017 Reply Download Reply brief filed by appellants-applicants for intervention. Briefs Submitted in Conservation Groups’ Tenth Circuit Appeal of Intervention Denial in Case Seeking Quarterly Oil and Gas Lease Sales. Briefing was completed in April in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of whether a New Mexico federal court properly denied conservation groups’ motion to intervene in a lawsuit in which Western Energy Alliance sought to compel the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales for public lands. The district court found that the groups had not shown that their interests would be impeded by the litigation or that their interests could not be adequately represented by existing parties. On appeal, the conservation groups argued that they were entitled to intervene as of right because the relief sought by the Alliance would impair their interests by increasing the frequency of lease sales and undermining leasing reforms that had provided greater public participation and more environmental review. The groups also argued that they had met their “minimal” burden of demonstrating that BLM might not adequately represent their interests; the groups said BLM, which was charged with “balancing” different uses of public lands, would not adequately represent the groups’ interest in “protecting” those lands. The groups also asserted that the district court abused its discretion by not granting permissive intervention. 04/12/2017 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by United States as amicus curiae in support of appellee and in support of affirmance. The federal government, which had not opposed intervention in the district court, submitted an amicus brief supporting the district court’s denial of intervention. The amicus brief argued that Western Energy Alliance had conceded that it would not seek to limit BLM’s discretion to decide when eligible mineral lands were available for oil and gas leasing and that the case therefore did not threaten to impair the conservation groups’ interests. 04/05/2017 Brief Download Response brief filed by petitioner-appellee Western Energy Alliance. In its response brief, Western Energy Alliance said that the conservation groups mischaracterized the relief sought in the lawsuit, which the Alliance said was limited to enforcing BLM’s nondiscretionary duty under the Mineral Leasing Act to conduct quarterly lease sales when lands were eligible. The Alliance said it did not seek to change the definition of “eligible” or modify the process by which lands were identified as eligible. 03/06/2017 Brief Download Opening brief filed by conservation groups appealing denial of motion to intervene.
Western Energy Alliance v. Jewell
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 03/01/2017 Memorandum Opinion and Order Download Motion for stay granted. 02/03/2017 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs in opposition to motion to stay. 01/20/2017 Motion Download Motion to stay pending resolution of appeal of denial of motion to intervene filed by conservation groups. 01/17/2017 Notice of Appeal Download Notice of appeal of denial of motion to intervene filed by environmental groups. 01/13/2017 Memorandum Opinion and Order Download Memorandum opinion and order issued denying motion to intervene. New Mexico Federal Court Denied Environmental Groups’ Motion to Intervene. The court denied environmental groups’ motion to intervene, saying that the groups had not shown that their interests would be impeded by the litigation or that their interests could not be adequately represented by existing parties. 01/13/2017 Memorandum Opinion and Order Download Order issued denying motion to dismiss. New Mexico Federal Court Allowed Lawsuit Seeking Quarterly Federal Mineral Lease Sales to Proceed. The federal district court for the District of New Mexico denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Western Energy Alliance (WEA) claiming that BLM violated the Mineral Leasing Act by failing to hold lease sales at least quarterly. The court rejected the federal defendants’ arguments that WEA had not met the requirements for associational standing, had not shown injury-in-fact, and had alleged only injuries that were not traceable or redressable. The court also concluded that WEA’s action was not an impermissible programmatic challenge. 11/02/2016 Response Download Response filed in opposition to motion to intervene. Oil and Gas Trade Association Opposed Intervention by Conservation Groups in Suit to Compel Quarterly Federal Mineral Lease Sales. Western Energy Alliance opposed intervention by nine conservation groups in its action in the federal district court for the District of New Mexico seeking to compel the United States Bureau of Land Management to hold quarterly federal mineral sales. Western Energy Alliance said that the groups’ request to intervene was premised on “straw man” arguments that the Alliance had not raised in the action. The Alliance said its action was focused on the narrow issue of the BLM’s ministerial obligation under the Mineral Leasing Act to conduct oil and gas lease sales at least quarterly whenever eligible lands are available, and that it was not seeking to curtail federal discretion over leasing or to limit environmental review. The Alliance said that the lawsuit therefore did not implicate an interest of the advocacy groups and that the federal defendants would adequately represent the groups’ position, and that the groups therefore were not entitled to intervene as of right. The Alliance also urged the court not to grant permissive intervention. 10/19/2016 Motion to Intervene Download Motion to intervene filed. Conservation Groups Asked to Intervene in Oil and Gas Trade Association’s Suit to Compel Quarterly Federal Mineral Lease Sales. Nine conservation groups moved to intervene in Western Energy Alliance’s (WEA’s) action seeking to compel the Bureau of Land Management to hold quarterly federal mineral sales. In the lawsuit, WEA alleged that BLM was failing to meet the Mineral Leasing Act’s requirements for regular lease sales. The environmental groups asserted that the relief sought by WEA would harm their interests by eliminating important environmental protections on public lands and fundamentally changing the way the federal oil and gas leasing program operates. The groups seek intervention as of right, or, alternatively, permissive intervention. 08/11/2016 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Oil and Gas Trade Association Filed Suit to Compel BLM to Hold Quarterly Mineral Lease Sales. Western Energy Alliance, which represents over 300 companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production, filed an action in the federal district court for the District of New Mexico asserting that the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had failed to meet the Mineral Leasing Act’s (MLA’s) requirement that lease sales for federal minerals be held at least quarterly. Western Energy Alliance asked the court to compel BLM to abandon its current leasing schedule and adopt a new schedule in compliance with the MLA. Western Energy Alliance also alleged that BLM had unjustifiably denied requests under the Freedom of Information Act. In a blog post announcing the action, Western Energy Alliance said that the lawsuit would counter the “Keep-It-in-the-Ground” movement.