Judge orders release of oil, gas nominator IDs

A federal judge has ordered the Bureau of Land Management to release the identity of parties that nominated parcels for oil and gas leasing in the North Fork Valley.

Richard Matsch, a senior judge for the U.S. District Court of Colorado, issued the ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Delta County group Citizens for a Healthy Community and by the Western Environmental Law Center.

The BLM had refused to release the identities of two nominators, saying their “expressions of interest” in having the parcels leased contain commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential.

The BLM doesn’t release nominators’ names until after lease sales. Matsch noted that the agency also cites the highly competitive nature of oil and gas exploration on public lands, and the fact that nominators may do preliminary investigative work regarding acreage they are interested in, and if their interest is made public, competitors may gain an unfair advantage and bid against the submitter.

But Matsch wrote in his ruling, “That contention runs directly contrary to the purpose of the public sale process. Competition in bidding advances the purpose of getting a fair price for a lease of publicly owned minerals. Moreover, the identity of the submitter may be relevant to the plaintiff and others who may raise concern about the stewardship records of that potential owner, a factor relevant to the environmental impact of the proposed sale.”

Citizens for a Healthy Community and others in the North Fork Valley voiced environmental and other concerns when the BLM proposed leasing about 30,000 acres there. The agency backed off that proposal and instead planned to offer 20,500 acres at a lease sale being held today, but then pulled that acreage from the sale to further evaluate whether it should be leased.

Matsch gave the BLM 30 days to release the names of the nominating parties.



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