Both sides Claim Victory in a Legal Dispute over Lease of Gas and Oil
Victory was claimed by both sides in a ruling Wednesday of a federal judge which dealt with when or if the Interior Secretary has to issue gas and oil leases that have been won at auctions.
Oil and gas industry representatives say that the decision handed down by U.S. District Judge Nancy Freundenthal clearly favored their cause. Their point of argument is that the federal government must abide by its own 60-day deadline on the issuance of leases won by bidders at the Bureau of Land Management auctions.
Kathleen Sgamma, the governmental affairs director of Western Energy Alliance, said, “We are happy with a victory and we are glad the court recognized the industry’s desire for more certainty in the leasing process.” Western Energy Alliance last year filed the lawsuit against the federal government.
She observed, however, that the decision of Fruendenthal did not extend far enough and was only limited to ordering the Interior Secretary do come at a decision, and not necessarily to release the held-up leases.
Sgammma, said, “It certainly reduced the unlimited discretion the government was arguing for. But she did not order the leases to be issued, only the government to make a decision.”
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance attorney, Steve Bloch, meanwhile, said that part of the ruling represented a victory for the agency and environmentalists. They perceive it as a rejection of the judge on the premise that the BLM should “lease first and think later.”
Bloch, said, “The plaintiffs were after a decision that the BLM had to issue a lease that was sold at an oil/gas lease sale, even if it decided doing so was not appropriate. What the judge said is that the BLM has the ability to review a protest after a lease/sale, which is a good thing.”