Posted on March 29 2019
Department of Interior (DOI)
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
America’s Gas and Oil - Natural Resources
Bull Mountain Unit Master Development Plan
Record of Decision DOI-BLM-CO-S050-2013-0022-EIS
In 2015 the DOI-BLM filed a Public Notice of the Draft EID for potentially 146 new Natural Gas and Oil wells that would be in the close proximity of Bull Mountain. I should state the grassroots environmental groups often know what the environmental, economic and bio-economic impact of mining and wells will have on their community. We as a society should pay closer attention to these groups. Their advocacy is without equal and they often give voice to those who are afraid to speak the truth. As such a Conglomerate of Environmental Groups worked together and in doing so they pooled their Resources together and advocated for a just and fair outcome as it relates to the Bull Mountain Gas & Oil Wells.
For your edification I’ve embedded links to each of the environmental groups who truly took on the full force and weight of the Trump Administration, in no particular order of preference:
CITIZENS FOR A HEALTHY COMMUNITY - website
HIGH COUNTRY CONSERVATION ADVOCATES - website
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY - website
WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - website
In 2015 CFAHC made sure to have a video documentation for the (then) Obama Administration’s public hearing. As the saying goes, “all politics are local” given the current administration to essentially ignore the APA, Public Comments and statutorily required “public notice” via the Federal Register. I am (albeit biased) to think that the Obama Administration did follow the statutorily required process.
2015 Bull Mountain Unit Public Comments
Conversely given the dozens of Federal Lawsuits that I have monitored over the better part of two very long years, admittedly some cases more closely than others. I can without reservation tell you that there’s a predictable and repetitive finding of facts. Where dozens of Article III Judges have (independently) rendered duplicative determinations that the Trump Administration consistently violates various Rule Making Statutes.
🌶SpicyFiles Sidebar🌶 if you don’t spend your days reading/writing/editing legal documents sometimes the “lexicon” can be completely foreign. In the past I generally made the assumption that readers would automatically know the legalese. It recently occurred to me that some of you may not know. From time to time if I encounter an opportunity where I can impart some of my knowledge base, I will endeavor to do so.
et seq is legalese short hand from the following Latin phrases; “et sequentes,” or “et sequential“...the literal translation is “and the following”. phrase et seq. can be used for various numbered lists, sections, subsections or various pages thereafter. As previously mentioned it’s “short-hand”. This actually makes citations shorter and cleaner while simultaneously allowing for better reading flow as it relates filing.
U.S.C. - Is an acronym for United States Code, found here.
G.P.O. - is an acronym for Government Publishing Office, found here
C.F.R. - Code of Federal Regulations, found here.
As to the previously mentioned various complaints, it’s a fact that dozens of Article II Judges have found the Trump Administration continues violates USCs and/or CFRs and on a semi regular occasion Judges across multiple districts have ruled the Trump Administration violated various USCs, CFRs and in some cases our actual Constitution.
As to the current Bull Mountain Unit matter, see below:
Administrative Procedure Act (APA) 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq Right for Review
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) 40 C.F.R. §§ 1500.1 et seq.
Various Agency Dependent CFRs
By way of background, since January 20, 2017 the Trump Administration has engaged in a nonsensical and often pernicious (arguably petty) near blanket reversal of just about everything the Obama Administration implemented and accomplished. To add further insult to injury, like the incompetent “affluenzia” white privileged interloper that Trump is, he then had repeatedlyly claimed credit for “accomplishments” he had noin October of 2017 the Trump Administration encourage you to read DOI-BLM’s
Bull Mountain Unit (BMU)
Situated within the Colorado River basin (see USGS study). Bull Mountain is about 30 miles NorthEast of the Town of Paonia,CO, located in Gunnison County Colorado. BMU “area” is approximately 19,670 acres, of which under both Federal and private oil and gas mineral reserves. BML describes the BMU as:
consists of 440 acres of BLM Federal surface lands and subsurface mineral estate;
12,900 acres of split-estate lands consisting of private surface and Federal mineral estate administered by the BLM; and 6,330 acres of fee land consisting of private surface and private mineral estate.
The BML Master Development Plan, this link will take you to the robust document library, inception of BMU Plan circa 2012 to present.
Fair warning I have not read all of the documentation.but the aforementioned link should take you to this landing page:
The final determination report can be found here. The final report includes a cover sheet and I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the pertinent “disclosures”. What the Trump Administration and/or the DOI-BML won’t tell you is they played a bit of a switch and bait. If you are not familiar with public policy, statutory language and requirements then the following sentence reads as innocuous, it is not and I’ll explain why:
“...with minor modifications, meets the BLM’s purpose and need, provides for natural gas exploration and development, and approves the Federal 12-89-7-1 Application for Permit to Drill (APD).” (emphasis added)
By presenting the public with “minor modifications” my guess is the Trump Admittedly incorrectly surmised various conditions within the APA, NEPA etc. meaning provided that an exhaustive environmental study. Which would require the administration conduct a follow up study addressing in greater detail the potential (if any) impact both to human and wildlife and “seepage” into the water table and ultimately into the “river basin”, which makes the following DOI-BLM statement disingenuous at best and at worse it’s just another wanton disregard for rules and procedures...all of which are meant to protect us and our environment. In simpler terms once again the Trump Administration appears to take a “short cut” when enacting public policy but the real salt in the wound is the Trump Administration has proven over and over it does not care what environmental impact his reckless decisions may have.:
“...may drill up to 146 new gas production wells and 4 water disposal wells from up to 33 pads in the project area. SGI also will be allowed to construct new roads and new surface or buried water supply and gas gathering pipelines to support exploration and development. SGI may also build up to three new compressor facilities inside the Unit and one compressor station outside the Unit boundary to the northwest to handle increased production”
Upon the October 2017 DOI-BML’s final release of the BMU’s “Plan”, the aforementioned environmental groups filed suit, which you can read here. The Conservation Groups main arguments can be distilled to these datapoints:
DOI-BLM and U.S. Forrest Service violated both the APA & NEPA requirements. The aforementioned Federal Agencies failed to adequately review the environmental study and adverse impact the “new” wells would have on residents and wildlife and the seeping of known toxic chemicals in to the ground water table, run off into adjacent water tributaries (rivers, creeks etc).
Based in part of the large surface area that a follow up study is required by the NEPA and CFRs as it relates to implementation.
Specifically the Conservation Groups main argument seems to suggest that the Trump Administration “short cut” Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for BMU, that “additional” sub projects under the BMU pursuant to NEPA & the implementation CFRs that the Agencies are required to conduct separate environmental studies:
The Bull Mountain Unit MDP as approved allows for the construction of up to 33 new well pads, 146 new natural gas wells, and 4 new waste-water disposal wells.
The new gas well and well pad figures include the approval of an Application for Permit to Drill called 12-89-7-1.
The approval of 12-89-7-1 APD is a 3 acre well pad, 25.3 acres for associated pipeline construction, and 7.5 acres to upgrade the access road to the well pad site.
As the Conservation Groups correctly argued DOI-BLM and the U.S Forrest Service are bound by not only the USC but also the CFRs Governing their respect Agency’s implementation. In the BMU matter the Plaintiffs highlighted the three areas: Direct, Indirect and Cumulative Impact. The later is more wholistic in nature and tends to be forward looking versus preventative.
Judge Babcock’s Order:
Nonetheless after a protracted litigation battle (because that’s how the Trump Administration views any outside group questioning his authority and desecration) a few days ago Judge Babcock ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs:
After carefully analyzing the briefs and the relevant portions of the record, I DEFER final ruling pending further briefing on remedies in accordance with this Order.
What might get lost in the copious judicial record is under NEPA the Court’s role is explicitly stated in the NEPA statute itself, as affirmed in the 10thCCOAs 2010 ruling in Wyo. v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., 661 F.3d 1209, 1256–57 and Coal. of Concerned Citizens To Make Art Smart v. Fed. Transit Admin. of U.S. Dep’t of Transportation, 843 F.3d 886, 902, 10thCCOAs...there is literally a robust library of rulings and the NEPA. As Judge Babcock stated and referenced in his order.
In simpler terms and non-legalese the Plaintiffs had precedence on their side. They limited their argument and scope to the “enforcement and procedures” as prescribed by both the USC and NEPA’s CFR et seq. Conversely the Trump Administration position was that of capitulation because DOI-BLM could not satisfy the “rule of reason” standard their arguments were unpersuasive.
“ensure that the agency has adequately considered and disclosed the
environmental impact of its actions.”
The rest of the Court’s order goes in to particularity about the technical aspects of the Plantiffs arguments and the Defendants arguing on the margins. Because that’s a know strategy. When your opponent has the law and facts on their side, the only move you have left is to argue in the “alternative” while hoping you’ve distracted the Court. Moreover the Court was direct, leaving zero ambiguity, the Trump Administration...but words like “arbitrary” and “capricious” in conjunction with “violated” is about as declarative as you can get:
Defendants acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and violated NEPA by not taking a hard look at the foreseeable indirect effects resulting from the combustion of oil and gas in the EIS and EA. Defendants must quantify and reanalyze the foreseeable indirect effects the emissions. (emphasis added)
And while this might not impact you, one thing you should know is the Trump Administration scrubbed numerous scientific data about the adverse heath and environmental impact the “special sauce” fracking can have not in just the immediate area but also the “run off” water tables and other devastating ecosystems impact:
“[w]ater quantity effects relate to the quantity of water that would be required to accomplish the project objectives of drilling and maximizing the recovery of gas while minimizing the costs of production and the environmental effects associated with production.”
I’m going to go out on a limb, if you’re the Trump Administration you never want to see a Court write the following sentences in your case where you ineptly argued a nonsensical argument that wasn’t remotely grounded in procedural or legal precedence. Just a thought not a sermon.
Failed to comply with NEPA by not taking a hard look at the reasonably
foreseeable indirect impacts of oil and gas;
Failed to comply with NEPA by not taking hard look at the cumulative impacts on mule deer and elk. Defendants must clarify the area it used when it analyzed the Unit MDP’s cumulative impacts on mule deer and elk in the EIS. Then, if Defendants only considered the Unit itself for its cumulative impacts analysis, it must reconsider that decision and provide sufficient explanation or expand the area of its analysis.
What you might fail to realize is the Bull Mountain Unit project has its headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River. These two sources provides “drinking and irrigation water to residents and farmers who supply the Western Slope and the Front Range with some of the state’s highest-quality produce, meats and wineries.” Yet no where in the BMU Final 236 page report the Trump,Administration makes zero mention of the headwaters issue. Which is problematic. You can click on the BMU final report and run a word search there is absolutely ZERO mention of headwaters.
The Center for Biological Diversity (a Plaintiff) in this matter describes the headwaters of North Fork and Gunnison River as:
Western Colorado’s North Fork Valley, roughly defined as the area around the three small towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia, has been named “Colorado’s Farm-to-Table Capital” by Colorado Life Magazine and declared a certified creative district by former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Farmers across the valley produce much of Colorado’s apple, cherry and pear crops, and the state’s second largest grape and peach crops. The North Fork Valley is home to the highest concentration of organic farms in the state of Colorado and to the West Elks American Viticultural Area, a federally recognized wine-growing region.
Also to give you an idea of the scope and range of the Bull Mountain Unit, file found here.
Trump's California Oil, Gas Leasing Plans
In a semi-related matter yesterday afternoon The Center for Biodiversity filed a lawsuit seeking the lawful production of all records pertaining to the Trump Administration’s to approve leases for the following areas in California. Even if the DOI - BLM and/or the US Fish & Wildlife argued that certain materials are exempt from FOIA (such as exemption 5) or are part of the inter/intra Agency deliberative process they are still required by law to provide an explanation, of which they have not. See Case 5:19-cv-01611, here.
The BLM has yet to publicly release the final resource-management plans, but the federal lands and mineral estate earmarked for leasing are in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus.
demands records related to BLM’s resource-management plans for the Southern Diablo Range and Central Coast of California. It also seeks records related to the Central Coast Field Office’s draft resource-management plan amendment and environmental impact statement for oil and gas leasing. The Center first requested these records under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2018, but the BLM has failed to respond.
On a variety of levels the Center for Biologic Diversity has pretty strong footing that the Records show they followed the FOIA process as prescribed by law, whereas BLM essentially ignored the two follow up request once a FOIA number had been assigned.
To further affirm the veracity of The Center for Biological Diversity this is the BML link to the DOI-BLM-CA-C090-2006-0021-EIS (Proposed RMP/Final EIS for the Southern Diablo Mountain Range and Central Coast of California) the last “known” ESI draft report occurred for public view in September 2007, so some 11.5 years ago. Also if Trumpy-Bear would stop breaking our laws I would be super appreciative.
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