30 Nov Concerned Residents Ask Court To Immediately Release Names of Corporations Seeking To Frack On Public Lands In The North Fork Valley
Without this information, residents are denied the opportunity to fully participate in the public protest period that closes December 17.
With just over 2 weeks remaining for the public to protest the plan to lease 20,000 acres of public lands surrounding the North Fork Valley to oil-and-gas developers, Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC) and the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) have asked a court to require the federal government to immediately release the names of the corporations that nominated these public lands for drilling.
The groups filed a preliminary injunction late yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado seeking an expedited resolution to their ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, which the groups filed in June 2012. BLM’s decision to lease the parcels in the February 2013 lease sale left the groups no choice but to seek the expedited ruling so that concerned residents would be able to acquire the requested information – information critical to their opportunity to fully participate in the public protest period regarding these oil-and-gas leases.
In December 2011, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it intended to lease 30,000 acres of public lands surrounding Colorado’s North Fork Valley at its August 2012 lease sale. So that local residents could learn more about the entities proposing such extensive development in and around their communities, CHC and WELC requested that BLM release the names of the entities that had nominated these lands for drilling, as they were likely to be the companies that would ultimately be drilling and fracking in the rural, agricultural community. BLM refused to reveal their identity, which led to the FOIA legal action.
In May 2012, following public outrage and the submission of over 3,000 public comments, BLM deferred the lease sale to conduct additional analysis. On November 16, BLM released the additional, but still deficient, analysis and announced plans to lease almost 21,000 acres of public lands at its February 2013 lease sale, despite the ongoing FOIA litigation and the impending revision to the agency’s decades old resource management plan for the area.
“Unfortunately, BLM is trying to pull a fast-one on the public by attempting to steamroll a lease sale through before the Court can decide whether the agency is required to disclose who is behind the nomination of these public lands for oil-and-gas development,” said WELC Attorney Kyle Tisdel. “We are hopeful this matter can be resolved expeditiously so that we can re-focus our attention on protecting this community and its vital resources from the agency’s irresponsible decision to lease these public lands without the hard look and public participation that the law requires.”
“Members of our community suspected that the BLM would again try to lease these parcels in the North Fork Valley before the court had a chance to rule on its secretive nomination process,” said Jim Ramey, Director of CHC. “We are hopeful that the Court will halt the agency’s attempt at an end run and require that the public be allowed access to this crucial information prior to the close of the public protest period and to bring an end to BLM’s covert lease nomination practice nationwide.”
The legal action, which was filed in June 2012 under FOIA and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), aims not only to reveal the identity of the persons or entities that nominated pubic lands for inclusion in the North Fork lease sale, but also to put an end to BLM’s general policy and practice of keeping the nominators’ identity secret until after an oil and gas lease sale takes place.
The motion for summary judgment can be found by clicking here.
The motion for preliminary injunction can be found by clicking here.