There, in 2005, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), after publishing volumes of documents, conducting scores of hearings, and processing thousands of comments, agreed to issue the most carefully circumscribed oil and gas leases ever—less than one-tenth of one percent of the total land area might be disturbed. Even that was too much for environmental groups; they sued. Then, one year ago, the New Mexico federal district court upheld BLM’s leasing plan; however, the court added a kicker: before issuing any leases, the BLM must prepare yet another EIS. That the court’s ruling conflicts with rulings by the Tenth and the Ninth Circuit, which had moderated its views somewhat in 2006, was irrelevant.
The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM), which had intervened to ensure that the federal government defends its actions, appealed to the Tenth Circuit, as did the federal government. Then, less than a month ago, the federal government withdrew its appeal! As usual, Interior Department officials say Justice Department lawyers are calling the shots; the lawyers claim the clients are in control. Regardless, IPANM will fight on, alone, in order to take this precedent-setting matter all the way to the Supreme Court. As was the case 20 years ago, lawyers for the Justice Department will not be there!