Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) failure to hold quarterly oil and natural gas lease sales on public lands.
At a time when Keep-It-in-the-Ground protesters are petitioning the Interior Department to violate the Mineral Leasing Act and stop federal oil and natural gas leasing by executive action, the trade association is reminding the agencies of their congressionally mandated responsibility to lease lands in states with oil and natural gas resources. The Alliance will be represented by Mark S. Barron and Alexander K. Obrecht of BakerHostetler, who successfully delivered a victory for industry on BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule.
BLM manages mineral rights across 700 million acres of public and split-estate lands in the United States. Under the Mineral Leasing Act, the agency is required to hold quarterly oil and natural gas lease sales in each state where lands are available and industry interest exists. Over the past few years, BLM has cancelled sales and failed to offer parcels for lease on a quarterly basis.
“Through protests and petitions, the Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement is trying to coerce BLM into violating the law by stopping all leasing on federal lands,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at the Alliance. “Yet without doing anything, activists could achieve the same goal just by leaving BLM to its own devices. Western Energy Alliance is simply asking the courts to compel BLM to follow decades-old law and hold quarterly lease sales in every oil and natural gas state.
“For example, today’s lease sale in Colorado was cancelled because BLM can’t get through the bureaucratic process in time. Likewise, in New Mexico only two lease sales were held in 2015 and one planned in 2016, despite the requirement to hold four every year. Who needs loud protests when bureaucrats are doing the same thing by simply not doing their job?”
Environmental groups are pressuring the Interior Department to issue a moratorium on federal oil and natural gas leasing. Groups such as 350.org, Food & Water Watch, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity and many others petitioned the department in July to end oil and natural gas leasing on public lands. The effort is a major step toward their long-term goal of completely ending oil and natural gas production in the United States.
A quick glance at the number of sales held in several key oil and gas states demonstrates BLM has regularly violated the requirement to hold four lease sales annually in each state.
BLM misses out on valuable revenue that benefits the federal government, states and taxpayers by not holding oil and natural gas lease sales quarterly. Since January 2015, BLM has received $170 million from lease sales. That figure could be substantially higher if the agency had just followed the law.