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Defending Federal Decisions and Permits: Practical Tactics For the Interested Party

Ezekiel J. Williams, Natural Resources and Environmental Administrative Law and Procedure II

Federal agencies regulate the development of natural resources and public lands under a spectrum of laws. A single development project may require several federal permits or decisions, often from different agencies with different statutory missions. An additional decision layer exists on public lands where the federal land management agency may be required to prepare a programmatic land use decision and environmental review document before even processing proposals to take site-specific action.

Consider a natural gas well on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) within the Department of the Interior. Before the well may be drilled, the following federal authorizations may be required: (i) a decision by the BLM authorizing the issuance of oil and gas leases under the Mineral Leasing Act, 30 U.S.C. §§ 26; (ii) an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) or environmental assessment (“EA”) addressing the reasonably foreseeable environmental effects of oil and gas leasing along with alternatives, prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 to 4370f; (iii) a record of decision (“ROD”) adopting a programmatic resource management plan under the Federal Land Policy Management Act (“FLPMA”), 43 U.S.C. § 1712, setting forth the mitigation measures and conditions of approval for natural gas development on federal oil and g