Ninth Circuit Decides Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Management re: Medicine Lake Highlands

Here is the opinion. An excerpt from the court’s syllabus:

The panel reversed the district court’s order granting judgment on the pleadings in an action brought by environmental organizations challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s continuation of 26 geothermal leases in northeastern California’s Medicine Lake Highlands.

The panel held that the district court incorrectly treated the environmental organizations’ claims as arising under only § 1005(a) of the Geothermal Steam Act. BLM’s 1998 decision to continue the 26 unproven leases in the Glass Mountain Unit under § 1005(a) was issued simultaneously with its decision to reverse and vacate its earlier decision to extend those leases on a lease-by-lease basis under § 1005(g). The panel held, thus, that the environmental organizations’ challenge to BLM’s decisions issued on May 18, 1998 implicated both § 1005(a) and § 1005(g).

Because BLM must conduct environmental, historical, and cultural review under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act before granting lease extensions under § 1005(g), the panel held that the environmental organizations’ claim fell within § 1005(g)’s zone-of-interests, and the organizations had
stated a claim under § 1005(g).

The panel declined the environmental organizations’ invitation to rule on the merits of its Geothermal Steam Act claims, and remanded for further proceedings.


Pit River Opening Brief

BLM Answer Brief

Pit River Reply