The federal government decided not to appeal a Feb. 13th ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard P. Matsch. Citizens For A Healthy Community (CHC) and Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) had won a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for not releasing the names of the nominators of 30,000 acres in the North Fork Valley for oil and gas leasing.
BLM asked for and received an additional 30 days to consider whether they would appeal or not. They chose not to, and in keeping of the Feb. 13 judgment, BLM released the names of the nominators by April 15.
In the interim, the same judge denied an attempt by Western Energy Alliance, an energy industry trade group, to intervene and possibly appeal the ruling.
BLM complied on Monday by releasing to CHC and WELC the Expressions of Interest (EOI) from Baseline Minerals, Gunnison Energy Corporation and Contex Energy Company.
Baseline Minerals nominated the majority of parcels which cover 30,000 acres for the original Aug. 9, 2012, BLM oil and gas lease sale.
Baseline Minerals also owns a few leases in the Deadmans Gulch unit near the Paonia Reservoir. Gunnison Energy and SG Interests also own leases in that same area.
Joseph Thames, Baseline Minerals president, is on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.
Contex Energy Company nominated the parcel near Henderson Creek.
Gunnison Energy Corporation nominated parcels near Paonia Reservoir.
The reversal of BLM's policy of secrecy concerning those who nominate public land for oil and gas leasing and development is considered a landmark decision.
"I think it is quite significant. BLM's decision to not appeal the court's ruling certainly signals a shift in their thinking about public disclosure and the public's right to know," Kyle Tisdel, WELC attorney, said. "Of course that policy shift will impact government transparency on all oil and gas leasing on federal lands."
Tisdel said the CHC case is now finished. He is working on similar cases for other organizations who have filed FOIA requests for other lease sales in Colorado. "We are awaiting when BLM will release EOIs for those cases," Tisdel said. "What we have heard from BLM in Colorado, [releasing the EOIs] is what they intend to do."
In a CHC press release, Jim Ramey, director, stated, "The BLM's mission is to best manage public resources, not to promote an energy speculation and commodities trading industry. If drilling companies want to develop publicly owned minerals they should say so publicly, allowing concerned citizens and affected communities to evaluate their health, safety, and environmental record."blog comments powered by Disqus