United States District Court, District of Columbia
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Judgment; Denying
Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Remand Order
National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”)
lawsuit, Plaintiffs challenge Bureau of Land Management
(“BLM”) approval and issuance of 473 oil and gas
leases on over 460, 000 acres of land in Wyoming, Colorado,
and Utah. The parties agreed to a trifurcated approach that
would first address the Wyoming leases, with briefing on the
Colorado and Utah leases to come in two subsequent stages.
See Sched. Order, ECF No. 24. Finding the NEPA
analysis of the Wyoming leases to be deficient, this Court
remanded the Wyoming leases to BLM for supplementary analysis
and enjoined any further activity on the Wyoming leases until
it was satisfied that BLM had addressed the deficiencies in
its analysis. See Mem. Op. (Mar. 19, 2019), ECF No.
99. Federal Defendants then moved for voluntary remand of the
Colorado and Utah leases for BLM to conduct “further
environmental analysis.” Defs.' Mot. Voluntary
Remand 1, ECF No. 107. This Court granted Federal
Defendants' motion in a May 29, 2019 minute order.
Plaintiffs moved to amend the minute order to specify that
the Colorado and Utah leases should be enjoined until BLM
demonstrates NEPA compliance. Pls.' Mot. Amend J., ECF
No. 108. Separately, Plaintiffs also moved to enforce the
Court's March 19, 2019 opinion and order regarding the
Wyoming leases. Pls.' Mot. Enforce, ECF No. 109. Because
this Court cannot properly enjoin leasing activity on the
Colorado and Utah leases without a briefing on the merits of
BLM's environmental analysis for those sites, it will
deny Plaintiffs' motion to amend. In addition, because
BLM's supplementary analysis provided Plaintiffs with all
of the relief required by the Court's earlier mandate and
the Court declines to second-guess the agency's actions,
it will deny Plaintiffs' motion to enforce the March 19,
2019 memorandum opinion and order. The Court underscores,
however, that BLM must take its obligation to supplement
seriously for all the land parcels challenged in this suit.
It will, accordingly, grant Plaintiffs leave to supplement
the complaint as provided under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure Rule 15 to the extent that they wish to challenge
any new leasing decisions.
March 19, 2019, this Court issued what is to be the first of
three dispositions in the trifurcated briefing schedule
addressing Plaintiffs' NEPA claims. See Mem. Op.
The Court's March 19 memorandum opinion addressed the
Wyoming leases and granted in part Plaintiffs' motion for
summary judgment, concluding that BLM “failed to take a
‘hard look'” at greenhouse gas
(“GHG”) emissions from Wyoming lease sales and
thus failed to comply with NEPA in authorizing these leases.
Id. at 59. More specifically, the Court concluded
that BLM's environmental assessments (“EAs”)
“(1) failed to quantify and forecast drilling-related
GHG emissions; (2) failed to adequately consider GHG
emissions from the downstream use of oil and gas produced on
the leased parcels; and (3) failed to compare those GHG
emissions to state, regional, and national GHG emissions
forecasts, and other foreseeable regional and national BLM
projects.” Id. at 56. Accordingly, this Court
remanded the nine EAs and associated findings of no
significant impact (“FONSIs”) associated with the
Wyoming lease sales challenged by Plaintiffs, directing BLM
to correct its NEPA shortcomings and “adequately
quantify the climate change impacts of oil and gas
leasing.” Id. at 2. Pending adequate
supplementation, this Court enjoined BLM from issuing a
permit to drill (“APD”) or “otherwise
authorizing new oil and gas drilling on the Wyoming
Leases.” Id. at 60.
24, 2019, Federal Defendants moved for a voluntary remand of
the Utah and Colorado oil and gas leasing decisions that
Plaintiffs originally challenged along with the Wyoming
leasing decisions. ECF No. 107. This Court granted the motion
in a May 29, 2019 minute order that remanded the Colorado and
Utah EAs, FONSIs and Determinations of NEPA Adequacy to BLM
and directed the agency to supplement these documents as
required by the Court's March 19, 2019 opinion.
Plaintiffs now bring two further motions regarding,
respectively, the May 29, 2019, remand to BLM for the
Colorado and Utah leases and the March 19, 2019, remand to
BLM for the Wyoming leases. Plaintiffs ask, first, that this
Court amend its May 29, 2019 minute order to enjoin BLM from
issuing APDs or otherwise authorizing new oil and gas
drilling on the Colorado and Utah leases, such that this
directive mirrors the Wyoming remedy. Pls.' Mot. Amend,
ECF No. 108. Second, Plaintiffs move to enforce the March 19,
2019 remand order regarding the Wyoming leases. Pls.'
Mot. Enforce. These motions are ripe for the Court's
Motion to Amend May 29, 2019 Minute Order
move to amend the May 29, 2019 minute order, contending that
the Court must amend its minute order and enjoin BLM from
issuing APDs on the Colorado and Utah leases until it is
certain that BLM's remanded analysis complies with NEPA.
Pls.' Mot. Amend J. 5. Although styled as a Rule 59(e)
motion, this Court applies the Rule 54(b) standard for
reconsideration of interlocutory motions in assessing
54(b) reconsideration may be granted ‘as justice
requires.'” Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D.
266, 272 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting APCC Servs., Inc. v.
AT&T Corp., 281 F.Supp.2d 41, 44 (D.D.C. 2003) and
Campbell v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 231 F.Supp.2d
1, 7 (D.D.C. 2002) (internal citations omitted)); see
also Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d at 25-26. A court
resolving a Rule 54(b) motion for reconsideration has
“more flexibility” as compared to its resolution
of a Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration. Cobell v.
Jewell, 802 F.3d at 25-26 (citing Cobell v.
Norton, 224 F.R.D. at 272). This flexibility is informed
by guidelines: “In general, a court will grant a motion
for reconsideration of an interlocutory order only when the
movant demonstrates: ‘(1) an intervening change in the
law; (2) the discovery of new evidence not previously
available; or (3) a clear error in the first
order.'” Zeigler v. Potter, 555 F.Supp.2d
126, 129 (D.D.C. 2008), aff'd, No. 09-5349, 2010
WL 1632965 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 1, 2010) (quoting Keystone
Tobacco Co., Inc. v. U.S. Tobacco Co., 217 F.R.D. 235,
237 (D.D.C. 2003)); see also Stewart v. Panetta, 826
F.Supp.2d 176, 177 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting Johnson-Parks
v. D.C. Chartered Health Plan, No. 09-1492, 806
F.Supp.2d 267, 268 (D.D.C. 2011)).
Plaintiffs argue under the Rule 59(e) legal standard that
this Court should amend the May 29, 2019 minute order because
it contains an error that requires correction to prevent
manifest injustice. Pls.' Mot. Amend J. 5. The error to
which Plaintiffs point is the fact that this Court's May
29, 2019 minute order did not enjoin APD approval on the
Colorado and Utah leases. See Id. But even under
Rule 54(b)'s more flexible standard, this minute order
does not contain a “clear error.” Contrary to
Plaintiffs' allegations, BLM has not admitted that the
Colorado and Utah EAs, FONSIs, and DNAs are necessarily
deficient. Rather, BLM requested voluntary remand “for
further analysis under NEPA.” Defs.' Mot. for
Voluntary Remand 2. Furthermore, as Defendants note, it is
not yet clear whether the Colorado and Utah
administrative records contain the same shortcomings that the
Court found with respect to the Wyoming decisions because
this Court has not yet ruled on the merits of the Colorado
and Utah claims. Defs.' Opp'n Pls.' Mot. Amend J.
2, ECF No. 110. It has thus not yet been determined that the
Colorado and Utah EAs, FONSIs, and NEPA determinations are
inadequate. To satisfy what NEPA requires, BLM's
environmental analysis on remand for the Colorado and Utah
leases must provide adequate quantification of the effects of
GHG emissions in the manner specified in the March 19, 2019
opinion, before making any further decisions
concerning those leases. This procedural posture is distinct
from the Wyoming leases, for which this Court concluded that
BLM's original analysis was deficient based on a full
briefing on the merits. For the Colorado and Utah leases,
this Court must assume that BLM will take its obligations
seriously on remand, barring contrary briefing on the merits.
Plaintiffs have not filed a motion for preliminary injunction
on the Colorado and Utah claims and articulated why
“irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an
injunction.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council,
Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008). If it is necessary to
preserve the status quo to “preserve BLM's
ability to change its mind about selling any of the [Colorado
or Utah] leases once the agency completes environmental
analyses that comply with NEPA, ” Pls.' Mot. Amend
J. 7, then Plaintiffs may seek a preliminary injunction. But
a motion to reconsider a minute order is the wrong procedural
vehicle through which to make this argument.
it declines to speculate about BLM's analysis on remand
before assessing BLM's EAs and FONSIs for the Colorado
and Utah portions of Plaintiffs' original claim,
particularly without rigorous application of the controlling
legal standard for injunctive relief, this ...