United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
WESTERN ORGANIZATION OF RESOURCE COUNCILS, et al. Plaintiffs,
U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, et al. Defendants.
Morris United States District Court Judge
Court issued an Opinion and Order in this matter on March 26,
2018. (Doc. 111.) The Court ordered the parties to meet and
confer in good faith to reach an agreement as to remedies.
Id. at 52. In the absence of such agreement, the
Court ordered the parties to submit, within sixty days,
supplemental briefing on the issue. Id. The parties
submitted remedies briefs on May 25, 2018. (Docs. 113; 114;
Timeline for Expedited EIS Revisions
Defendants have provided two proposed expedited schedules for
the preparation of a supplemental EIS for the Buffalo RMP and
a supplemental EIS for the Miles City RMP. The first timeline
provides a twelve-month schedule for a corrective NEPA
analysis. (Doc. 114 at 22.) The second timeline provides a
sixteen-month schedule that adds four months for new coal
screening. Id.; (Doc. 114-1 at 9.) Federal
Defendants have filed additionally a motion to reconsider the
section of the Court's March 26, 2018, Order that
requires Federal Defendants to perform new coal screening.
Court deems it inappropriate to take up the motion to
reconsider at this juncture, as reconsideration should not
serve as a substitute for appeal. County of Santa Clara
v. Trump, 267 F.Supp.3d 1201, 1209 (N.D. Cal. 2017)
(internal references omitted); cf. Equal Empl.
Opportunity Commn. v. Wah Chang Albany Corp., 499 F.2d
187, 190 (9th Cir. 1974) (discussing reconsideration of a
final judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)). With the entry of
judgment pursuant to this Order resolving remedies, Federal
Defendants remain free to appeal the Court's final
decision. See F. R. App. P. 4.
Court notes, however, that the BLM stated that the coal
screening criteria could be reapplied as necessary in both
the Miles City PRMP and FEIS and the Buffalo PRMP and FEIS.
MC:7-3315; BUF:6-2231. BLM responded to public comment
advocating for updated coal screening in the Miles City PRMP
and FEIS by deferring to the ready reapplication of the coal
screening factors. MC:7-3855-3857. The Court sees no reason
that Federal Defendants cannot reapply the coal screening
factors at this juncture. The Court adopts Federal
Defendants' 16-month expedited timeline for the remedial
NEPA analyses, to be completed no later than November 29,
2019. (Doc. 114-1 at 9.)
assert that the Court should enjoin issuance of new leases,
and any surface-disturbing activity on existing leases.
Injunctive relief represents “a drastic and
extraordinary remedy” that a court should not grant
“as a matter of course.” Monsanto Co. v.
Geertson Seed Farms, 561 U.S. 139, 165 (2010). A party
seeking a permanent injunction must demonstrate: “(1)
that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies
available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to
compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance
of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in
equity is warranted; (4) that the public interest would not
be disserved by a permanent injunction.” Id.
at 156-57 (internal references omitted).
Court has already ordered Federal Defendants to comply with
the Court's March 26, 2018, Order. This Order applies
when issuing any new or pending lease of coal, oil, or gas
resources in the Buffalo or Miles City planning areas until
Federal Defendants produce remedial analyses that comply with
its obligations under NEPA. (Doc. 111 at 51.) With such
relief already imposed, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate
an irreparable injury, or that that the balance of hardships
favors a more restrictive injunction. Monsanto, 561
U.S. at 156-57.
seek a vacatur of the ROD issued by Federal Defendants on
September 21, 2015. The Administrative Procedures Act allows
a court 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.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The
APA does not “mechanically obligate” Courts,
however, “to vacate agency decisions that they find
invalid.” Pac. Rivers Council v. U.S. Forest
Serv., 942 F.Supp.2d 1014, 1017 (E.D. Cal. 2013).
“When equity demands, ” the Court may leave the
agency action in place while the agency completes appropriate
remedial measures. Cal. Cmtys. Against Toxics v.
EPA, 688 F.3d 989, 992 (9th Cir. 2012)
addresses twelve RMP revisions and amendments spanning
millions of acres of federally owned lands across the western
United States. Were the Court to set aside the ROD, such
action would invalidate all underlying RMPs. As the Court
noted in its Order, invalidation of the RMPs would cause
BLM's management plan to revert to the 1985 Buffalo RMP
and the 1996 Miles City RMP. (Doc. 111 at 49.) The parties
have not refuted directly this premise. In light of this
circumstance, the Court deems it inequitably disproportionate
to the scope of the instant action, which challenged only the