Western Energy Alliance is trying to become a party to the FOIA lawsuit by Citizens For A Healthy Community (CHC) so they can file an appeal. FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act which gives citizens the right to access federal government information.
A decision on their request will be made in District Court by Senior Judge Richard Matsch prior to the April 15 deadline for the Bureau of Land Management to release the names of those who nominated the North Fork Valley parcels for the Aug. 2012 oil and gas lease sale. Those parcels were deferred from that sale and one scheduled for February 2013.
Western Energy Alliance was founded in 1974 as the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States. The nonwprofit trade association represents over 400 companies engaged in exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the West.
According to their website, Western Energy Alliance provides "comprehensive representation in Washington and across the West focusing on: access to government lands for exploration and production, federal agency permitting, air and water quality, reform of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA), wildlife conservation, health and safety, taxation, and other issues."
The trade group is now seeking to become a party after the judgment in an attempt to gain standing for an appeal to the Tenth Circuit.
"This demonstrates just how badly the energy industry wants to keep the public in the dark about oil and gas leasing on public lands," said Jim Ramey, CHC director.
"I think it's a high, tough legal hill for them to climb because, since we filed this lawsuit back in June of 2012, they could have asked to be a party to the lawsuit. Now they are coming to the judge after he has made his decision," Ramey said. "We will have the opportunity to respond to their motion asking to become a party to the lawsuit. We will be doing that shortly with [Western Environmental Law Center]."
Ramey added, "An interesting thing here is there were three nominators of the North Fork parcels. Two of them said they were willing to disclose their information, so they didn't have any concerns about this being an issue. In fact, one of them, Gunnison Energy, did voluntarily disclose that they had nominated a few parcels. So, I think that sheds some light as to how some companies view this policy, and maybe even suggests that open government and transparency would be good for the public resale process. Government should do its business out there within the eye of the public and for everyone to see."
The second company that has said they nominated some parcels is SG Interests. But the third company that nominated the lion's share of the original 30,000 acres has remained silent.
"Maybe the industry benefits when the BLM keeps the oil and gas leasing process secret, but the public gets the short end of the stick," said WELC attorney Kyle Tisdel, who represented CHC on this case. "The BLM should respect the District Court's well-reasoned decision and change their policy to bring full transparency to the agency's oil and gas leasing process on our public lands.
"Transparency in the leasing process is the very best way to avoid corruption and make sure the public gets a fair price," concluded Tisdel.blog comments powered by Disqus