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10th Circuit Court Ruling on Oil Leases

10th Circuit Court Ruling on Oil Leases

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The 10th Circuit Court ruling on oil leases in Utah.
The 10th Circuit Court ruling on oil leases in Utah.

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Published by: The Salt Lake Tribune on Sep 05, 2012
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09/05/2012

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PUBLISH
 
UNITED
 
STATES
 
COURT
 
OF
 
APPEALS
 
TENTH
 
CIRCUIT
IMPACT ENERGY RESOURCES, LLC;PEAK ROYALTY HOLDINGS, LLC;QUESTAR EXPLORATION ANDPRODUCTION COMPANY,Plaintiffs–Appellants,UINTAH COUNTY; CARBONCOUNTY; DUCHESNE COUNTY,Plaintiffs,v.KEN SALAZAR, in his official capacityas Secretary of the Department of theInterior; UNITED STATESDEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR;KENT HOFFMAN, in his officialcapacity as Deputy State Director forMinerals, Utah Bureau of LandManagement of the Department of theInterior; UNITED STATES BUREAU OFLAND MANAGEMENT, Utah StateOffice,Defendants–Appellees.NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATIONASSOCIATION; NATIONAL TRUSTFOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION;SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESSALLIANCE; NATURAL RESOURCESDEFENSE COUNCIL; WILDERNESSNos. 11-4043 & 11-4057
FILEDUnited States Court of AppealsTenth Circuit
September 5, 2012
 Elisabeth A. ShumakerClerk of Court
 
 
-2-SOCIETY; SIERRA CLUB; UTAHRIVERS COUNCIL; GREAT OLDBROADS FOR WILDERNESS; GRANDCANYON TRUST,Defendants–Intervenors–Appellees.RED ROCK FORESTS,Defendant–Intervenor,------------------------------WESTERN ENERGY ALLIANCE,Amicus Curiae.
Appeal from the United States District Courtfor the District of Utah(D.C. No. : 2:09-CV-00435-DB)
 Michael L. Beatty, Beatty & Wozniak, P.C. Denver, Colorado, and Mark Ward, UtahAssociation of Counties, Murray, Utah, (Robert S. Thompson, III, Beatty & Wozniak,P.C., Denver, Colorado, on the briefs) for the Plaintiffs-Appellants.Robin Cooley, Earthjustice, Denver, Colorado (Steven Bloch and David Garbett,Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance on the briefs), for the Defendants-Intervenors-Appellees.Vivian H.W. Wang, United States Department of Justice, Environment & NaturalResources Division, Washington, D.C., (Ignacio S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General,David C. Shilton, Tyler Welti, and Charles R. Scott, United States Department of Justice,on the brief) for Defendants-Appellees.Kent Holsinger and Laura L. Chartrand, Holsinger Law, LLC, Denver, Colorado, filed abrief for Amicus Curiae Western Energy Alliance on behalf of Plaintiffs-Appellants.
 
-3-Before
LUCERO
,
SEYMOUR
,
 
and
TYMKOVICH
, Circuit Judges.
PER CURIAM
.Appellants in this case are companies that submitted high bids on certain oil andgas leases at a Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) auction (collectively, the “EnergyCompanies”). After the auction but before the leases were issued, newly appointedSecretary of the Interior Ken Salazar decided not to lease the parcels at issue. Salazarannounced his decision at a February 4, 2009, press conference and memorialized hisdetermination in a February 6 memorandum to the BLM’s Utah State Director. OnFebruary 12, 2009, a subordinate BLM official mailed letters to the high biddersindicating that the leases would not be issued. Exactly ninety days later, the EnergyCompanies filed suit challenging the Secretary’s authority to withdraw the leases. Thedistrict court dismissed their suit as time-barred under the Mineral Leasing Act (“MLA”),which provides that “[n]o action contesting a decision of the Secretary involving any oiland gas lease shall be maintained unless such action is commenced or taken within ninetydays after the final decision of the Secretary relating to such matter.” 30 U.S.C. § 226-2.A majority of the panel agrees with the district court that the Secretary’s finaldecision in this matter occurred no later than February 6, and thus, the suit is time-barred.As explained in their separate concurrences, however, the panel majority would employsomewhat differing analyses in reaching this result. Judge Lucero would hold that underthe plain text of the MLA, the Secretary’s decision was final on February 6 regardless of 

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