American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - 14

IndustryDigest
Western Alliance Sues
To Force BLM To Hold
Regular Lease Sales
DENVER-The Western Energy
Alliance has filed a lawsuit challenging
the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's
failure to hold quarterly oil and natural
gas lease sales, saying its intent is to
remind the agency of its congressionally
mandated responsibility "at a time when
keep-it-in-the-ground protesters are
petitioning the Interior Department to
stop oil and gas leasing by executive
action."
The lawsuit, Western Energy
Alliance v. Sally Jewell and the Bureau
of Land Management, was filed Aug. 11
in the U.S. District Court for the District
of New Mexico. It cites repeated
instances in which BLM has failed to
hold quarterly lease sales as required by
the Mineral Leasing Act, and asks the
court to "direct BLM to abandon its
current leasing schedule immediately,
rescind any guidance documents and
instruction memoranda that implement
these unlawful practices, and promptly
adopt a revised schedule that complies
with the terms of the Mineral Leasing
Act."
The lawsuit also accuses BLM of
unjustifiably denying the Alliance's
Freedom of Information Act requests
and asks the court to "direct BLM to
process the FOIA requests and deliver
all responsive materials immediately."
The Alliance points out that in the
states of Colorado, Montana, New
Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma,
Texas, Utah and Wyoming, BLM has
held or plans to hold only 30 of 64
quarterly lease sales required by law.
BLM's Eastern States Office, which has
jurisdiction over Arkansas, Iowa,
Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri and all
states east of the Mississippi River, held
only two leases sales in fiscal 2015 and
expects to hold only two in FY 2016.
"The Alliance simply is asking the
courts to compel BLM to follow
decades-old law and hold quarterly lease
sales in every oil and natural gas state,"
comments Vice President of
Government and Public Affairs Kathleen
Sgamma, who notes a Colorado lease
sale scheduled the day the Alliance filed
its lawsuit "was cancelled because BLM
can't get through the bureaucratic
process in time."
Sgamma points out that
14 THE AMERICAN OIL & GAS REPORTER

environmental groups have been
pressuring DOI to issue a moratorium
on federal oil and gas leasing. She says
350.org, Food & Water Watch,
WildEarth Guardians and the Center for
Biological Diversity petitioned the
agency in July to end oil and gas leasing
on public lands.
The Alliance's case is being handled
by Denver-based Baker & Hostetler
LLP, which prosecuted the successful
challenge by the Alliance and the
Independent Petroleum Association of
America to BLM's hydraulic fracturing
rule. Mark Barron, lead attorney in the
leasing challenge, comments,
"Notwithstanding the bluster of special
interest groups that disregard the
contribution independent producers
make to domestic prosperity and
national security, the overlooked point
is that the keep-it-in-the-ground
movement is inconsistent with
controlling law. We seek to ensure that
Congress' explicit legal directive-not
cute lobbying slogans-drives federal
land management." ❒

Anti-O&G Development
'Local Rights' Statutes
Suffer Another Setback
WEXFORD, PA.-Several
developments in late July and early
August may signal "the light at the end
of the tunnel" for two companies'
attempts to convert natural gas wells to
underground injection wells while
simultaneously dealing setbacks to
activists' attempts to halt oil and gas
activities under the guise of community
bills of rights, according to the
Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas
Association.
On July 27, PIOGA reports, the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
upheld a lower-court decision to deny
the Little Mahoning Watershed's motion
to intervene in Pennsylvania General
Energy Co. v. Grant Township.
PGE sued Grant Township after local
officials prevented the company from
converting a gas well into an
underground injection well, despite the
fact the company had permits from the
Pennsylvania Department of
Environmental Protection and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
(AOGR, May 2016, pg. 97).
Then on Aug. 12, PIOGA continues,

the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of Pennsylvania approved a
consent decree between Seneca
Resources Corp. and Highland
Township, Pa., two days after the
Highland Township Board of
Supervisors overturned its ordinance
banning wastewater injection wells.
Like PGE, Seneca Resources had the
necessary federal permit, although its
DEP permit had been suspended
pending court review of the township's
ordinance.
Both townships were encouraged by
the Mercersburg, Pa.-based Community
Environmental Legal Defense Fund,
which PIOGA General Counsel Kevin
Moody notes has been convincing local
governments around the country to
adopt community-bill-of-rights
ordinances that prohibit oil and gas
activity.
In the Grant Township case, Moody
points out that CELDF touted the Little
Mahoning Watershed's motion to
intervene as "the first motion by an
ecosystem to intervene in a lawsuit."
He adds, "The court did not rule on
whether Grant Township's ordinance
could lawfully create rights in an
ecosystem, but the court noted that
federal rules of civil procedure require
litigants to be 'individuals, corporations
and others permitted by state law to sue
or be sued,' and that an ecosystem . . .
does not qualify."
While nonprecedential, Moody adds,
"Hopefully, this ruling is another
significant nail in the coffin against
these misguided and unlawful efforts by
local governments to ban lawful
business activities.
He mentions that on Aug. 22, the 3rd
Circuit "in a terse, one-sentence order,"
denied a petition filed by the Little
Mahoning Watershed to have its motion
reheard en banc.
In Seneca Resources Corp. v.
Highland Township, Moody says, the
consent decree bars the township from
challenging any future state or federal
permits for Seneca injection wells. The
township also must acknowledge that its
community-bill-of-rights ordinance
banning injection wells is
unconstitutional under the state and
federal constitution and laws.
Despite the approval of the consent
decree, Moody says that by Aug. 17, the
DEP had not yet acted on Seneca's
permit, so the company filed a


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016

Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - Cover1
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - Cover2
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - Contents
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American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - Cover3
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