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New Mexico ex rel. Richardson v. Bureau of Land Management

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
565 F.3d 683 (10th Cir. 2009)


Facts

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (defendant) sought to amend the resource-management plan (RMP) for the Otero Mesa after natural gas was discovered there. The region traditionally had not been significantly developed by oil and gas companies. Amending the RMP required an environmental-impact assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). BLM issued a draft environmental-impact statement (EIS) analyzing potential methods of managing the land. The draft EIS limited surface disturbances to areas within 492 feet of existing roads. BLM’s final EIS modified the draft by changing the 492-feet limitation to a limitation of 5 percent of the total land area at any given time, with no restriction as to location. BLM determined that its modified EIS required no additional environmental analysis, because substantially the same amount of surface area would be ripe for development. BLM executed an oil and gas lease on the land prior to analyzing the impact of development on each leasing site. The State of New Mexico and various environmental groups (plaintiffs) brought suit against BLM, arguing that BLM was required to issue a supplemental environmental assessment and that BLM was required to conduct a site-specific analysis of each leasing site prior to beginning the leasing process. The district court determined that BLM had complied with NEPA’s EIS requirement but had failed to comply with NEPA’s requirement to conduct site-specific analyses prior to the leasing process. The plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lucero, J.)

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