BLM won't appeal ruling forcing disclosure of Colo. leases

Posted: Apr 17, 2013

Written by

Phil Taylor, Greenwire
North Fork Valley

The Interior Department will not appeal a ruling by a federal court in Denver forcing the agency to disclose the names of companies that nominated lands for drilling in Colorado's North Fork Valley, a spokeswoman said.

The agency's Bureau of Land Management will submit the names of the firms today to the U.S. attorney's office, which will then hand them over to Citizens for a Healthy Community, the Delta County, Colo.-based environmental group that filed an information request for the names last year.

The government's decision comes days after U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch rejected a motion by the Western Energy Alliance to intervene in the case, which would have given the trade group standing to appeal the decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although the case is apparently finished, it is unclear whether it will have wider ramifications for BLM's decades-old policy of keeping the names of those that nominate federal lands for oil and gas development anonymous until after they have been leased.

Matsch's ruling in February was a victory for environmental groups that have long opposed development of the pastoral North Fork Valley, but it came as a shock to oil and gas advocates who said it could send a chilling message to potential drillers (E&ENews PM, Feb. 14).

Drilling companies that nominate federal parcels have relied on BLM's policy to ensure that they are "not penalized for expending capital to explore and analyze the suitability of federal lands for oil and gas leasing and development," the Western Energy Alliance told the court last month (E&ENews PM, March 22).

But Citizens for a Healthy Community argued that the public has a right to know who is seeking to develop publicly owned minerals. For example, citizens should be able to review the safety record of potential bidders to help inform the agency's environmental review of lease sales, the group said.

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