Oil Companies Denied Motion to Intervene in Development Case

On Friday, Anschutz Exploration Corporation (AEC) and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC’s (Chesapeake) motions to intervene in an environmental case concerning oil development on government land were denied.  Judge Ronald E. Bush of the District of Idaho held “resolving this action without either AEC or Chesapeake as parties will not impair or impede their ability to protect their interests.”

Western Watersheds Project et al. originally brought this suit against the Department of Interior et al., to “challenge the Trump Administration’s unlawful actions to lease and develop oil and gas resources on public lands, or managed by the United States.”  The plaintiffs alleged violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. 

The court in February granted partial summary judgement for the plaintiffs, which resulted an injunction against the defendants’ actions in regards to oil and gas lease sales contained in whole or in part within sage-grouse habitat management areas.  As a result, AEC and Chesapeake filed motions to intervene due to concerns of “economic and property interests in certain of these Phase One lease sales.”  Additionally, AEC and Chesapeake “also seek to intervene to protect their same interests in separately-held leases that, while not associated with the set-aside Phase One lease sales themselves, are implicated in subsequent phases of the litigation.”  AEC and Chesapeake argued “they are the only parties that can adequately protect their individual interests.”

Judge Bush disagreed with the oil companies.  Under FRCP 19, AEC and Chesapeake argued their lease interests “rendered them required parties.”  Citing case law, Judge Bush stated “[a]n absent party is adequately represented where the present party ‘will undoubtedly make all of the absent party’s arguments,’ ‘the party is capable of and willing to make such arguments,’ and ‘the absent party would [not] offer any necessary element to the proceedings that the present parties would neglect.’”  Western Energy Alliance (WEA) intervened soon after this action was filed and was approved by the court, because “WEA is ‘uniquely capable’ of explaining how any potential ruling will affect the property interests of a private trade association comprised of members heavily dependent on oil and gas production/leasing.”  The court reasoned since both AEC and Chesapeake are both members of WEA, “[t]hey naturally share the same ultimate objective in this lawsuit” and therefore “either party’s ability to protect its interest is impaired because those interests are already adequately represented by Defendant-Intervenor WEA.” 

The court also agreed with plaintiffs’ opposition to AEC and Chesapeake intervening under FRCP 24(a).  Plaintiffs argued AEC and Chesapeake “cannot intervene because their motions are untimely and WEA already adequately represents their interests.”  Supporting reasons provided by the court were that the litigation has already been active for two years with multiple motions to dismiss denied, a portion of the case transferred to Wyoming, and several parties already permitted to intervene.  Also, allowing AEC and Chesapeake to intervene would require additional briefing for plaintiffs and potential introduction of arguments not yet before the court.  Finally, the court concluded that “WEA has represented and can be expected to adequately represent AEC’s and Chesapeake’s interests.”

The court additionally denied the request for permissive intervention under FRCP 24(b) citing the same reasoning for rejection under 24(a).

WEA and Chesapeake are represented by Beatty & Wozniak and MSBT Law.  AEC is represented by Hogan Lovells and Parsons Behle & Latimer.