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Pennaco Energy, Inc. v. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 34 ELR 20072
Nos. No. 03-8062, (10th Cir., 08/10/2004)

The Tenth Circuit reversed a lower court decision to reinstate three oil and gas leases, previously denied by the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), because the BLM failed to comply with NEPA. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concluded that two existing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses satisfied the NEPA requirements with regard to issuance of the leases. One of these documents, however, did not address coalbed methane development, and the second document did not address two of the three parcels at issue in this case. The IBLA concluded that the existing NEPA analyses were insufficient to allow the BLM to take a "hard look" at the environmental impacts of the proposed coalbed methane development, but a district court reversed. Contrary to the district court's finding, the IBLA's conclusion that additional NEPA documents were needed was supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. The record also supported the IBLA's conclusion that the proposed action raised significant new environmental concerns that had not been addressed by the existing NEPA documents. The IBLA's decision, therefore, was not arbitrary or capricious.