New Mexico judge rules against environmental group in oil and gas lease fight



The Bureau of Land Management didn’t violate federal law when it approved oil and gas lease sales in New Mexico, but it must include public participation in future lease sales, a New Mexico federal court said Tuesday.

Judge Robert C. Brack issued his ruling in a lawsuit filed by WildEarth, an environmental group headquartered in Santa Fe.  WildLife had contended the BLM failed to properly take into consideration a sufficient analysis of how the oil and gas leases across more than 68,232 acres of public land in New Mexico would affect the local and regional environments.

“BLM sufficiently analyzed how these leases affect the local and regional environment, and its conclusion that the impact was not significant was not arbitrary and capricious,” he ruled.

He also ruled that the BLM was not required to carry out Social Cost Protocol in evaluating the impact of the leases on the environment.

“There are an infinite number of tests that could be performed, or studies conducted, prior to this sort of transaction. BLM is not required to perform all of them,” he ruled.

Judge Brack admitted in his ruling that the Permian Basin region of southeast New Mexico will provide strong reactions not only from those who see the oil and gas development as an economic boon to the area but similar reactions from those who see it as a threat to the environment.

“Amid these tensions, the Court has a simple role: to apply the law as it stands, without comment on the underlying policies,” he wrote.

Judge Brack denied WildEarth in nearly every one of its claims in the lawsuit, denying the group’s request to declare the oil and gas leases in violation of federal environmental laws and to stop future leasing authorizations in the region. He also denied WildEarth’s request for attorney fees.

On its website, WildEarth likes to show the cases it won with the word “WON” in bold letters across a picture. It did not list this case.

Click here to view the Judge’s decision.