May 10, 2012
Group Lacks Standing to Challenge BLM Land Certification
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (D.D.C.) ruled today in Wildearth Guardians v. Salazar that Wildearth lacked standing to challenge the Bureau of Land Management's rejection of its petition to recertify the Powder River Basin in Wyoming as a "coal production region" and thus, according to Wildearth, to limit the environmental impact of coal mining in the Basin.
The ruling ends Wildearth's efforts to get the BLM to recertify the basin, at least unless Wildearth refiles, or appeals and (as seems unlikely) wins.
The case grew out of Wildearth's petition to the BLM to recertify the Basin as a "coal production region." The BLM had earlier decertified the region, thus allowing land to be leased in the Basin for coal production by application. Wildearth claimed that leasing-by-application diminished competition and prevented the BLM from analyzing and addressing the environmental impacts of coal leasing in the Basin. It petitioned the BLM to recertify the Basin as a "coal production region."
The BLM declined to recertify, and Wildearth sued.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly ruled that Wildearth lacked standing, because a favorable result in the case wouldn't necessarily redress its alleged harms. In particular, she wrote that even if the court granted Wildearth's requested relief--to vacate BLM's decision and to remand to the BLM for reconsideration--the BLM might nevertheless re-decide not to recertify. Moreover, even if BLM were to recertify, it might set a coal leasing ceiling at a high level that wouldn't redress Wildearth's aesthetic and recreational harms. "The central point is this: the denial of WildEarth Guardians' petition and the recertification of the Powder River Basin are many, many steps removed from the injuries identified by Plaintiffs." Op. at 18.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly also rejected Wildearth's arguments for procedural standing (because Wildearth did not plead that the BLM omitted a procedural requirement before denying its petition) and informational standing (because nothing required the BLM to disclose the relevant information, even if they won the case).
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