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Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment v. Bernhardt

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20077
Nos. 18-2089, (10th Cir., 05/07/2019)

The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court ruling that upheld BLM's approval of oil and gas wells in the Mancos Shale area of the San Juan Basin in northeastern New Mexico. Environmental groups argued that the agency violated the National Historic Preservation Act by failing to consider the cumulative effects of the wells on relevant cultural and historic properties before it approved them. But the court found that the area which the groups argued would be negatively impacted by the wells differed from the area of potential effects defined by the agency, and thus that the groups failed to identify any historic properties within the area set by BLM. The groups also argued the environmental impacts of the wells were both different in kind from and greater in magnitude than those considered in a 2003 EIS on which BLM relied, and thus that the approvals were arbitrary and capricious. The court concluded that the 2003 EIS did not consider the cumulative impacts of the wells and that BLM's approvals violated NEPA. It therefore remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate the approvals and to remand to BLM to conduct a proper NEPA analysis.