Tuesday, February 28, 2012

BLM Answers Complaint Challenging Sale of Oil and Gas Leases

Late last week, the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") filed an answer in an action challenging its sale of oil and gas leases in California. A copy of the answer may be found here.

BLM's answer was filed in a lawsuit on which we first reported in December. Filed by the Center for Biological Diversity ("CBD") and the Sierra Club, the lawsuit seeks to overturn BLM's sale of oil and gas leases in Monterey and Fresno counties, charging BLM with having failed to evaluate the impacts of oil and gas development. More specifically, plaintiffs allege that such development will negatively impact various species and their habitats due to the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, oil spills, and methane leakage. Additional details regarding the lawsuit may be found here.

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint at the end of December. The amended complaint did not materially alter the allegations of the original complaint. BLM filed its answer on February 24. Not surprisingly, the answer denies the essential elements of the amended complaint. With respect to plaintiffs' concerns regarding fracking, BLM avers that the lease sale did not approve any particular drilling method, including fracking. BLM acknowledges generally that fracking uses large volumes of water and can result in emissions of gasses and particulate matter, as plaintiffs allege, but denies the specific allegations of the amended complaint. BLM also denies that the lease sales complained of by plaintiffs will cause harm to species or the environmental from oil spills or methane leakage. Ultimately, BLM denies that plaintiffs are entitled to any relief from the court and requests that the action be dismissed.

We will continue to monitor significant developments in this action, particularly with respect to its potential impact on the practice of fracking in California.

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

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