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Guardians v. Jewell

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 14, 2017

WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, et al., Plaintiffs,
JEWELL, et al., Defendants, WESTERN ENERGY ALLIANCE, et al., Defendant-Intervenors Re Document Nos: 30, 37, 39


          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge

         Granting the State of Wyoming's Motion to Intervene; Granting the State of Colorado's Motion to Intervene; Granting the State of Utah's Motion to Intervene


         Plaintiffs WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility initiated this action to challenge the approval of oil and gas leases on public lands in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 22. Plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, the Director of the United States Bureau of Land Management, and the United States Bureau of Land Management-collectively, the Federal Defendants. Plaintiffs allege that the Federal Defendants violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370h. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. In relief, Plaintiffs seek, inter alia, a declaration that the “Federal Defendants' leasing authorizations . . . violate NEPA, ” that the leasing authorizations and leases be vacated, and an injunction to prevent the Federal Defendants “from approving or otherwise taking action on any applications for permits to drill on the leases included in the lease sales challenged herein.” Am. Compl. at 39. The Western Energy Alliance (Alliance), Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW), and America Petroleum Institute (API) sought and received leave to intervene as defendants. See generally Mem. & Order, ECF No. 19. Following that intervention, the Court adopted the parties' case management plan, which split the case into separate phases, with the Wyoming phase to be briefed and decided first. See generally Order, ECF No. 24.

         The State of Wyoming (Wyoming), the State of Colorado (Colorado), and the State of Utah (Utah) subsequently moved to intervene as defendants. Wyo.'s Mot. Intervene, ECF No. 30; Colo.'s Mot. Intervene, ECF No. 37; Utah's Mot. Intervene, ECF No. 39. The proposed intervenors conferred with the existing parties, and no existing party opposed the intervention.[1]As discussed below, the Court grants Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah's motions to intervene as a matter of right.[2]


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) provides that

[o]n timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who: claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2); see also Roane v. Leonhart, 741 F.3d 147, 151 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (“A district court must grant a timely motion to intervene that seeks to protect an interest that might be impaired by the action and that is not adequately represented by the parties.”). According to the D.C. Circuit, Rule 24(a) requires four distinct elements be satisfied where a party seeks to intervene as a matter of right: “(1) the application to intervene must be timely; (2) the applicant must demonstrate a legally protected interest in the action; (3) the action must threaten to impair that interest; and (4) no party to the action can be an adequate representative of the applicant's interests.” Karsner v. Lothian, 532 F.3d 876, 885 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).[3]

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Intervention as a Matter of Right

         To determine if a motion to intervene is timely, “courts should take into account (a) the time elapsed since the inception of the action, (b) the probability of prejudice to those already party to the proceedings, (c) the purpose for which intervention is sought, and (d) the need for intervention as a means for preserving the putative intervenor's rights.” WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar, 272 F.R.D. 4, 12 (D.D.C. 2010). Here, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah moved to intervene approximately sixteen weeks after the initial complaint was filed, and approximately four weeks after the amended complaint-reflecting the previous intervenors-was filed. Under this Court's scheduling order, dispositive motions will not be filed until June of 2017, and the Administrative Record will not be available until March of 2017. Order, ECF No. 24. No party argues that Wyoming, Colorado, or Utah's participation would be prejudicial, or opposes their intervention.[4] See generally Wyo.'s Mot. Intervene; Colo.'s Mot. Intervene; Utah's Mot. Intervene. Without any indication of potential prejudice, the Court thus concludes that intervention by the movants would be timely. See Roane, 741 F.3d at 152 (“[I]n the absence of any indication that [the applicant's] intervention would give rise to . . . prejudice, [the applicant's] motion was timely. . . .”); see also WildEarth, 272 F.R.D. at 14; Karsner, 532 F.3d at 886.

         As to the second and third factors, this Circuit has explained that the “putative intervenor must have a legally protected interest in the action, ” WildEarth, 272 F.R.D. at 12 (internal quotation marks omitted), and that the action must threaten to impair the putative intervenor's proffered interest in the action, Karsner, 532 F.3d at 885. “The test operates in large part as a practical guide, with the aim of disposing of disputes with as many concerned parties as may be compatible with efficiency and due process.” WildEarth, 272 F.R.D. at 12-13.

         Here, Wyoming benefits financially from federal oil and gas leases. See Mem. Supp. Wyo.'s Mot. Intervene (Wyo. Mem.) at 11, ECF No. 30 (“In 2009, the State received $460 million in severance and $479 in ad valorem tax revenues from oil and gas activities in Wyoming.”). Of the billions of dollars in royalty revenue generated by federal oil and gas leases in Wyoming, about half is returned to the state. Wyo. Mem. at 11. In addition, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality worked with the Bureau of Land ...

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