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Amigos Bravos v. BLM

Citation: 40 ELR 20084
No. Nos. 09-0037, -0414, (D.N.M., 02/09/2010)

A district court granted in part and denied in part the United States' motion to dismiss citizen groups’ claims challenging the approval of certain quarterly oil and gas lease sales under, among other things, the APA, FLPMA, the Mineral Lands Leasing Act (MLLA), the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), and NEPA. First, the groups have challenged final agency actions within the meaning of the APA. The plain meaning of the regulations, Tenth Circuit dicta, and Ninth Circuit case law all support the notion that each protest decision constitutes a final agency action. Likewise, the EAs and FONSIs constitute final agency actions because they allowed BLM to proceed with the lease sales and triggered the administrative protest process. Second, certain of the groups’ claims are not time barred by the statute of limitations (SOL) in the MLLA. Controlling authority in the Tenth Circuit holds that the MLLA’s SOL only applies to actions contesting either the lease issuance or substantive decisions relating to the leases themselves under the MLLA. It is therefore inapplicable to the NEPA, NFMA, APA, and FMPLA claims. The doctrine of equitable tolling does not apply to the MLLA claim subject to the SOL because the SOL is jurisdictional. Moreover, even if the doctrine were applicable, the circumstances are not rare and exceptional so as to merit application of the doctrine. Third, the claim that BLM violated NEPA because it failed to supplement the EISs for its resource management plans (RMPs) is not foreclosed by prior caselaw. Finally, the claim that BLM failed to ensure compliance with certain New Mexico laws, which prohibit the waste of oil and gas and call for reductions of methane and carbon dioxide emissions, in violation of FLPMA and certain regulations is not cognizable. Since the group does not specifically challenge a land use plan, RMP, or a provision of a lease, it does not allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim under the cited law.