Reese River Basin Citizens Against Fracking filed a complaint in federal court on June 27, seeking to enjoin the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from holding an oil and gas lease sale. The rural group is comprised of owners of “farming and ranching land, water rights, and grazing rights” adjacent to the land that the BLM intends to lease. Citizens Against Fracking’s members claim they “derive recreation, aesthetic and spiritual benefit” from their use and enjoyment of the land at issue. In their complaint, the group claims that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by: (1) minimizing the proposed lease sale’s consequences, environmental impact and adverse effects in its environmental assessment and (2) proposing the lease sale without preparing an environmental impact statement.
In April, the Battle Mountain District Office of the BLM announced that it intended to hold a lease sale of about 230,989 acres of land in Lander, Nye and Esmeralda counties in Nevada. The BLM conducted an environmental assessment of the proposed sale and determined that the proposed sale’s environmental impacts are insignificant based on: (1) the low probability that any of the land will actually be used for oil and gas development and (2) the fact that leasing does not authorize oil and gas development. The BLM wrote an Interested Party Letter this past February and sent it to those with grazing rights to the land, posted it on its website, and noticed it in the Federal Register. The public had thirty days to respond, but Citizens Against Fracking did not respond because its members allegedly did not learn about the proposed sale until after the deadline had passed.
Citizens Against Fracking now claims the BLM minimized the environmental impacts that the lease sale and possible development would have on “air quality, cultural and historical resources, Native American religious and cultural sites, riparian and wetland impacts, threatened and endangered species, waste fluids, forest and rangeland, geology and mineral resources, geothermal conflicts, range resources, and recreation impacts.” Citizens Against Fracking also claims that the BLM did not consider the impacts that may be caused by fracking if the leases are developed. The group alleges that the BLM’s reliance on the low probability of development is misplaced because the BLM did not consider the impact of the newly evaluated Chainman Shale Formation, an area that a 2005 U.S. Geological Survey estimated could contain 1.598 billion barrels of oil and 1.836 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
For additional coverage of this lawsuit, click here.
This post was coauthored by Kathryn Geisinger (BakerHostetler 2014 Summer Associate).