613 F.Supp. 1182 (D.Wyo. 1985), C85-0208, Park County Resource Council, Inc. v. United States Dept. of Agriculture

Docket Nº:C85-0208-B.
Citation:613 F.Supp. 1182
Party Name:PARK COUNTY RESOURCE COUNCIL, INC., a non-profit corporation; Stan Siggins, an individual; Lloyd Zeman, an individual, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, United States Forest Service; Stephen P. Mealey, in his official capacity as supervisor of the Shoshone National Forest; Bureau of Land Management; Department of the Interior
Case Date:July 25, 1985
Court:United States District Courts, 10th Circuit, District of Wyoming
 
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613 F.Supp. 1182 (D.Wyo. 1985)

PARK COUNTY RESOURCE COUNCIL, INC., a non-profit corporation; Stan Siggins, an individual; Lloyd Zeman, an individual, Plaintiffs,

v.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, United States Forest Service; Stephen P. Mealey, in his official capacity as supervisor of the Shoshone National Forest; Bureau of Land Management; Department of the Interior of the United States; Hilery Oden, in his official capacity as State Director of the Bureau of Land Management, Defendants,

and

Marathon Oil Company, Amerada Hess Corporation, and Rosewood Resources, Inc., Defendants-Intervenors.

No. C85-0208-B.

United States District Court, D. Wyoming.

July 25, 1985

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Patrick J. Marley, (pro hac vice), Cole & Marley, Los Angeles, Cal., Don W. Riske, Cheyenne, Wyo., for plaintiffs.

Richard A. Stacy, U.S. Atty., and Carole A. Statkus, Asst. U.S. Atty., Cheyenne, Wyo., Marla Mansfield, Regional Sol., U.S. Dept. of Interior, Denver, Colo., for Federal defendants.

Stanley K. Hathaway, Hathaway, Speight & Kunz, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Charles L. Kaiser (pro hac vice), Davis, Graham & Stubbs, Denver, Colo., for defendants-intervenors.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BRIMMER, Chief Judge.

This case arises from plaintiffs' contention that the Bureau of Land Management issued an oil and gas lease, and later granted an Application for Permit to Drill (APD), in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. § 4321, et seq. By the July 1, 1985 Order of this Court, plaintiffs' motion for a Temporary Restraining Order on the granting of the APD was denied. To allow plaintiffs an opportunity to address the issues more fully, the Court then held a hearing on plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction, which with the agreement of counsel, the Court consolidated into a full hearing on the merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2). At the conclusion of the evidence and final arguments, the Court concluded that plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of proof both for the preliminary injunction and upon the merits of the case, and orally denied plaintiffs' motion and dismissed their claims with prejudice. This memorandum opinion confirms the oral Order and more fully sets out the reasoning of the Court.

On July 9, 1982 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided to issue Federal Oil and Gas Lease W-73230 to defendant-intervenors, which lease encompasses multiple-use lands in the Shoshone National Forest. The lease contains a number of stipulations and surface use restrictions which, together with applicable Department of the Interior regulations, required the conduct of additional environmental studies and approval by the United States before any exploration or development activities could be conducted on the lease. Neither plaintiffs nor any other party challenged the BLM's proposed issuance of this lease, nor appealed the BLM decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA).

On June 21, 1983 intervenor Marathon Oil Company, the designated operator for the lease, submitted an Application for Permit to Drill (APD). Federal defendants prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the APD in February, 1984, and completed a second draft in October 1984 and a Final EIS in March 1985. They held public meetings to discuss these documents on September 27, 1983, October 19, 1983, March 21, 1984, April 21, 1984, May 1, 1984, May 2, 1984, and November 8, 1984. At the conclusion of this process the BLM granted intervenors a limited right to drill an exploratory oil and gas well at North Fork on an untimbered ridge located 28 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, and 26 miles east of Yellowstone National Park, access to which was to be obtained only by helicopter transport from a staging area situated on an abandoned quarry site near U.S. Highways 14, 16 and 20 about a mile or two from the drill site.

Plaintiffs appealed this decision to the IBLA, which decision is still pending. However, when the IBLA denied plaintiffs' motion to stay the drilling pending outcome of the appeal, plaintiffs filed suit in this Court. Plaintiffs contend that the actions of the BLM and the Forest Service violated

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NEPA and the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531, et seq. Specifically, plaintiffs contend:

(1) That an EIS, rather than an Environmental Assessment, should have been prepared for the entire lease area,

(2) that the EIS on the APD itself is inadequate, and,

(3) that the Endangered Species Act was violated.

The Court has studied each of these issues, and concludes that plaintiffs have failed to prove their claims. Plaintiffs failed to establish irreparable harm either to themselves or the environment. Plaintiffs' witnesses testified to some unspecified fears about inability to take hunters or sportsmen into the North Fork area, and possible problems with air and water quality. Nothing testified to by these witnesses convinced the Court that the Environmental Assessment and EIS were erroneous in concluding that there will be no irreparable harm to the environment or plaintiffs...

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