BLM faces new NEPA challenge for granting leases without evaluating fracking risks

Monterrey Formation
In our April 10th blog post, BLM Violated NEPA by Granting Leases without Evaluating Fracking Risks (Hyperlink), we reported on a recent federal court ruling that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by leasing 2,700 acres of federal land in the Central California Monterrey Shale Formation for oil and gas extraction without assessing the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing. It was the first court decision to find a federal lease sale invalid on this basis.

The ruling cast into doubt another recent BLM auction in the central California as BLM allegedly conducted a similar review before proceeding with the auction. As expected, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club moved to contest this auction.

On April 18th, the groups filed suit in the federal court (Case No. CV-13-1749, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division). As in the prior suit, the groups assert that a detailed environmental impact study (EIS) was needed to investigate how potential hydraulic fracturing could affect the local groundwater and endangered species living in the area. They allege that the BLM unreasonably and arbitrarily relied on an environmental assessment that only looked at the environmental impact of a single well on one acre of land, even though the lease covered almost 18,000 acres. It remains to be seen how BLM will approach this litigation in consideration of the outcome of the earlier challenge.

The recent legal challenges to the BLM auctions, however, complicate ongoing efforts to develop the Monterrey Shale Formation and secure access to its estimated 15.5 million barrels of recoverable petroleum.

View the Complaint

This post was prepared by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice and Ted Bosquez ( or 724 416 0423) from Fulbright's Environmental Law Practice Group.