Friday, December 9, 2011

Environmental Groups Challenge BLM Oil and Gas Leases

Yesterday, the Center for Biological Diversity ("CBD") and the Sierra Club filed a federal action in the Northern District of California challenging the Bureau of Land Management's ("BLM") leasing of property in Monterey and Fresno counties for oil and gas development. A copy of the action may be found here.

The suit arises from BLM's September 14, 2011, lease of three oil and gas parcels totaling approximately 2,500 acres to Vintage Production California, LLC, Lone Tree Energy & Associates, LLC, and a private individual. In the suit, CBD and the Sierra Club allege that BLM's decision to lease the land violates the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Specifically, the suit contends that "BLM relied upon an environmental assessment ('EA') prepared pursuant to NEPA that failed to analyze many of the significant environmental effects of the oil and gas development that could occur upon development of the leases," citing concerns for endangered and sensitive species in the area. The suit also warns of potential impacts to water quality and other resources that allegedly result from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a method of oil and gas extraction that may be employed in the leased areas. It also complains that oil and gas activity on the property may result in spills and habitat contamination and emissions of methane gas. Ultimately, CBD and the Sierra Club seek to overturn the leases.

The central legal defect alleged by CBD and the Sierra Club centers on BLM's decision to prepare an EA and a Finding of No Significant Impact, or "FONSI," rather than prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS"). The environmental groups filed a protest to BLM's decision to proceed with the oil and gas lease sale without an EIS. BLM dismissed their protest and proceeded with the sale, leading to yesterday's filing. Additional information may be found on BLM's website for its Hollister office.

For more information regarding this matter, please contact Eric Adair or the KMTG attorney with whom you normally consult.

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