BLM doesn’t appeal, reveals lease nominator names

The Bureau of Land Management today revealed the names of companies that nominated oil and gas leases in the North Fork Valley after deciding not to appeal a judge’s order.

However, the nominator of most of the 30,000 acres turned out to be a Denver company that acquires leases on behalf of others rather than developing them itself. That means activists have fallen short in their goal of determining who ultimately may have an interest in developing those leases.

The BLM had until today to either appeal, or follow a federal judge’s order to release the names as had been sought in a lawsuit by the Delta County group Citizens for a Healthy Community and the Western Environmental Law Center.

The BLM revealed to those groups today that Baseline Minerals of Denver nominated much of the acreage in question. A small portion of the lands was nominated by Contex Energy Co. and Gunnison Energy Corp. Gunnison Energy previously had identified itself as having proposed some of the parcels for leasing.

The groups behind the lawsuit say the BLM’s decision not to appeal is a big victory for transparency, while the Western Energy Alliance industry group expressed disappointment in it, and in U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard Matsch’s decision last week to not let it intervene in the lawsuit in hopes of challenging his ruling.

“I think it’s really helpful to see a sign from the BLM that they haven’t appealed this ruling and that they’ve instead chosen to go with a good, open, transparent government process,” said Jim Ramey, director of Citizens for a Healthy Community.

But Kathleen Sgamma of Western Energy Alliance said the case’s outcome simply will result in energy companies using lease brokers more so than in the past.

“That just means that BLM has less information about the companies that are actually nominating the leases,” she said.

The BLM traditionally hasn’t released the names of nominators until after a lease sale, in part to protect proprietary interests of nominating parties.

The plaintiffs had sued partly on the argument that they should have the chance to scrutinize nominators’ environmental records.

Ramey acknowledged that some nominators may not be energy companies, but brokers working on their behalf, or entities hoping to acquire acreage and flip it later to energy companies. He said that ideally, companies wanting to develop parcels should have to say so publicly rather than being allowed to use third parties to nominate parcels.


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