MOBIL EXPLORATION & PRODUCING US v. Dept. of Interior

Decision Date16 June 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-5009.,98-5009.
Citation180 F.3d 1192
PartiesMOBIL EXPLORATION & PRODUCING U.S., INC., and Mobil Corporation, Plaintiffs, and Oxy USA Inc. and Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, sued as: Bruce Babbitt, Secretary, Department of the Interior; Cynthia Quarterman, Director, Minerals Management Service, Department of the Interior; Erasmo Gonzales, Chief, Houston Compliance Division, Minerals Management Service, Department of the Interior; and Gary L. Johnson, Chief, Dallas and Tulsa Compliance Offices, Minerals Management Service, Department of the Interior, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Patricia Dunmire Bragg and Stephen R. Ward of Gardere & Wynne, L.L.P., Tulsa Oklahoma; Oliver S. Howard, Teresa B. Adwan, and Dennis C. Cameron of Gable, Gotwals, Mock, Schwabe, Kihle, and Gaberino, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Patricia A. Patten of Oxy USA Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Oxy USA Inc. and Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation. David L. Bryant and Alinda F. Stephenson of Bryant Law Firm, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Deborah B. Haglund of Mobil Business Resources Corp., Dallas Texas, for Mobil Exploration & Producing U.S. Inc. and Mobil Corporation.

Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General; Donna S. Fitzgerald and Robert L. Klarquist, Attorneys, Department of Justice; Ivan K. Fong, Deputy Associate Attorney General, Washington, D.C.; and Geoffrey Heath and Howard Chalker, Office of the Solicitor, Department of the

Interior, Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellees.

Before BALDOCK, McKAY, and BRORBY, Circuit Judges.

McKAY, Circuit Judge.

After examining the briefs and the appellate record, this panel has determined unanimously that oral argument would not materially assist the determination of this appeal. See Fed. R.App. P. 34(a)(2); 10th Cir. R. 34.1(G). The case is therefore ordered submitted without oral argument.

Plaintiffs Occidental Oil & Gas Co. and its subsidiary OXY USA, Inc., appeal the district court's order on cross-motions for summary judgment determining that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this action.1 We exercise jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I.

Plaintiffs are federal oil and gas lessees in California on leases issued under the Mineral Leasing Act, 30 U.S.C. §§ 181-287, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. §§ 1331-1356. Defendants, the Secretary of the Interior, the Department of the Interior, and the Minerals Management Service MMS, are responsible for administering oil and gas leases for federal, Indian, and tribal lands issued under the mineral leasing laws. See generally Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act of 1982 FOGRMA, 30 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1757. The MMS is the agency within the Department of the Interior responsible for determining royalty value and collecting royalties due on federal or Indian oil and gas leases.

On July 18, 1996, the MMS sent a letter to OXY stating that it was "conducting a review of the valuation of crude oil for royalty purposes . . . which would cover crude oil and related transactions for January 1, 1980 through July 31, 1996." Appellants' App., Vol. II, Doc. 12 at 342. The letter also stated:

MMS requests OXY to keep all records related to its California operations for the audit period. MMS also requests access to all documents and information in OXY's possession related to the production and disposition of crude oil for the audit period. An initial request for information is set forth in the Enclosure. Additional records and information necessary to complete the audit will be requested as needed.

Id. Plaintiffs did not respond to the letter nor did they provide the MMS with access to the documents requested. Consequently, on September 4, 1996, the MMS issued an administrative subpoena to Occidental to produce information pursuant to 30 U.S.C. §§ 1711, 1713(a), and 1717(a) by September 30, 1996. See id. at 368-71. Although Plaintiffs turned over documents maintained for the six years prior to July 31, 1996, they have not complied with the subpoena to the extent that it orders the production of documents generated before July 31, 1990.

Plaintiffs brought this action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma seeking two results: (1) a declaratory judgment that the document request letter and the administrative subpoena relating to the MMS audit are invalid; and (2) injunctive relief barring or preventing enforcement of the document request letter and the subpoena. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the action pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court denied the motion but stated that it would revisit the jurisdictional issue on summary judgment. The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Defendants again claimed that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction.

With respect to whether Plaintiffs' claim objecting to the document request letter was ripe for review, and relying partly on the government's disavowal that it would pursue penalties against Plaintiffs under 30 U.S.C. § 1719(c)(2), the district court found that the letter did not impose any legal obligation on Plaintiffs. Additionally, even assuming that a legal obligation existed, the court found that the letter did not constitute final agency action because it was not the consummation of the agency's decisionmaking process.

The district court also determined that because the administrative subpoenas were not self-executing and because no enforcement action had been filed in the Northern District of Oklahoma, review of Plaintiffs' complaint would contradict the general rule against reviewing pre-enforcement actions. Although Defendants had filed an enforcement action against Plaintiffs in the Central District of California, the court did not believe that the enforcement action conferred jurisdiction in the Northern District of Oklahoma.2 Therefore, the court held that it was "not persuaded that an anticipatory action challenging the validity of an administrative subpoena confers jurisdiction on this Court." Id., Doc. 23 at 909.

In response to Plaintiffs' claim that "dismissal of this action would condemn them to maintain records beyond the six-year statute of limitation" set forth in 30 U.S.C. § 1713(b), id. at 913, the court held that "there is no per se rule against document requests by the MMS beyond the six-year statute of limitation." Id. at 914. Finally, the district court cast aside Plaintiffs' assertion that the MMS' initiation of the audits exceeded its statutory authority. The court held that this case did not "`present one of the extraordinary exceptions to the final agency action requirement.'" Id. at 915 (quoting Veldhoen v. United States Coast Guard, 35 F.3d 222, 225 (5th Cir.1994)). Accordingly, the district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiffs' claims were not ripe for review, and it granted summary judgment to Defendants.

II.

We review orders granting or denying summary judgment de novo. See Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Lujan, 963 F.2d 1380, 1384 (10th Cir.1992) (Phillips II). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Wolf v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 50 F.3d 793, 796 (10th Cir.1995). "If there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute, then we next determine if the substantive law was correctly applied by the district court." Wolf, 50 F.3d at 796.

On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the court erred in determining that it did not have jurisdiction and they essentially repeat the arguments they made to the district court. They assert that the district court possesses subject matter jurisdiction because the document request letter and the administrative subpoena constitute final agency actions which are ripe for review. In the alternative, Plaintiffs contend that their claims are reviewable because the MMS exceeded its statutory authority in initiating the audit relating to, ordering the retention and disclosure of, and issuing the subpoena for documents more than six years old. Defendants respond that the district court correctly determined that Plaintiffs' claims were not ripe for judicial review.

III.

The Administrative Procedure Act provides a right to judicial review of "final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court." 5 U.S.C. § 704. Under the APA, a court is authorized to "hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be . . . arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law," or "in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations." Id. § 706(2)(A) & (C). "Before a court may review an agency decision, it must evaluate `the fitness of the issues for judicial review and the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration.'" Ash Creek Mining Co. v. Lujan, 934 F.2d 240, 243 (10th Cir.1991) (quoting Abbott Lab. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 149, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967)). Our application of the doctrine of ripeness prevents courts from entangling themselves in administrative policy disagreements and "protects the agencies from judicial interference until an administrative decision is formalized and its effects felt in a concrete way by the challenging parties." Abbott Lab., 387 U.S. at 148, 87 S.Ct. 1507.

In evaluating claims pursuant to the ripeness doctrine, we generally consider four factors:

(1) whether the issues in the case are purely legal; (2) whether the agency action is "final agency action" within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 704; (3) whether the action has
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