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Amigos Bravos v. United States Bureau of Land Management,

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20260
Nos. Nos. 6:09-cv-00037, -00414, (D.N.M., 08/03/2011) ozone claims dismissed

A district court denied environmental groups' petition for review challenging BLM's and the U.S. Forest Service's approval of several oil and gas lease sales in the San Juan Basin of northern New Mexico. The groups, who were concerned that the leases would contribute to ozone emissions, impact public health, and reduce visibility in the region, argued that the approvals violated NEPA, FLPMA, the National Forest Management Act, and the APA. But the BLM satisfied NEPA’s "hard look" requirement. The agency's EAs/FONSIs adequately analyzed the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts the lease sales would have on air quality in the San Juan Basin. Moreover, BLM’s alternatives analysis was not arbitrary and capricious, as the agency met its pre-leasing obligation to study, develop, and describe a range of appropriate alternatives. In addition, BLM’s decision not to prepare EISs and to defer additional analysis until it received an application for a permit to drill was not arbitrary and capricious. Without more concrete development plans, a detailed analysis of ozone impacts would constitute a misallocation of resources. Nor did BLM fail to provide for compliance with federal air quality standards for ozone prior to authorizing the oil and gas lease sales or denying the protests to the lease sales. The agency reasonably relied on the data and analysis available to it, which indicated its actions would not result in a violation of applicable pollution control laws. Likewise, the Forest Service took appropriate steps in its management activities to ensure that its leasing decision would not lead to a violation of federal or state air quality standards. Similarly, the Forest Service's alternatives analysis complied with NEPA, and it adequately analyzed the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts the oil and gas leasing would have on air quality.