The Crestone Eagle, December 2006:

Land Trust requests records from Fish & Wildlife Service under the Freedom of Information Act re: oil & gas exploration

by Kim Malville

On Friday November 17, the Crestone/Baca Land Trust sent a request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for all records and information relating to proposed oil and gas exploration or development on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. We have been assisted in this endeavor by the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic.

The CBLT is asking for copies of all correspondence between Lexam Explorations and the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding oil and gas exploration or development on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, any agreements between FWS and Lexam, or any other document regarding the use of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration or development.

The CBLT is particularly interested in learning who made the determination that standard procedures required under NEPA were not needed and on what basis that determination was made. “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, and reasonable alternatives to those actions.” In particular, we consider it highly unusual that the proposed drilling on a National Wildlife Refuge has apparently not required an environmental impact statement (EIS) and a public hearing.

Our request to the FWS includes, but is not limited to, “all memoranda, instruction memoranda, instruction bulletins, letters, notes, complaints, reports, recommendations, opinions, field research reports or notes, studies, minutes of meetings, faxes, telephone records, electronic transmissions such as e-mail, correspondence, or any tangible written or recorded instrument, whether draft or final.”

Because the CBLT is a non-profit corporation with a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status, we believe we should meet the requirements for a fee waiver for all copying and mailing expenses.

The requested information will reveal the details of oil and gas drilling on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, which is of great interest to the Crestone/Baca community. The documents should allow CBLT and its attorneys to determine whether and how FWS complied with the law regarding the proposed drilling in the Refuge. Once this information is obtained, the Land Trust will disclose the information to its members, and members of other conservation organizations, and all interested members of our community.

FOIA requires that the FWS reply to this request within twenty business days of receipt.