11 Mar Court Grants BLM’s Request to Delay Release of Names
A federal court has granted the BLM’s request for an extra 30 days to release the names of who nominated 30,000 acres of public lands in the North Fork Valley for drilling and fracking. The BLM’s new deadline to release the information is April 15.
The imposed deadline resulted from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by Citizens for a Healthy Community and the Western Environmental Law Center. On February 13, the court ruled that BLM violated the law when it concealed the identity of companies that nominated public lands for gas drilling leases. The BLM must either release the names or appeal the ruling by the deadline.
The precedent-setting ruling established that the public has a right to know the names of the parties nominating public lands for leasing. “An open and transparent bidding process is the best way to make sure the public gets a fair price for leasing publicly owned minerals,” said Jim Ramey, director of the Paonia-based nonprofit Citizens for a Healthy Community.
In the February 13 court ruling, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch responded to the BLM’s argument for secrecy with a similar sentiment:
“That contention runs directly contrary to the purpose of the public sale process. Competition in bidding advances the purpose of getting a fair price for a lease of publicly owned minerals. Moreover, the identity of the submitter may be relevant to the plaintiff and others who may raise concerns about the stewardship records of that potential owner, a factor relevant to the environmental impact of the proposed sale.”
“We look forward to the BLM following the law and serving the public interest by releasing this illegally withheld information,” said Kyle Tisdel, attorney with Western Environmental Law Center.
CHC and WELC did not object to BLM’s extension request, since the standard amount of time to appeal a federal district court ruling is 60 days.