United States District Court, D. Colorado
CITIZENS FOR A HEALTHY COMMUNITY, HIGH COUNTRY CONSERVATION ADVOCATES, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, and WILDERNESS WORKSHOP, Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, RYAN ZINKE, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior, DANA M. WILSON, in her official capacity as Acting Southwest District Manager, UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, SONNY PERDUE, in his official capacity as Secretary of Agriculture, and SCOTT G. ARMENTROUT, in his official capacity as Forest Supervisor, Defendants, & SG INTERESTS I, LTD. and SG INTERESTS VII, LTD., Intervenor-Defendants.
ORDER REGARDING SG INTERESTS' MOTION TO SET
DEADLINE FOR REQUESTS FOR PRELIMINARY RELEIF AND REQUEST FOR
P. Gallagher, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the Court on the SG's motion for an
order requesting that the Court set a date by which
Plaintiffs must file for a preliminary injunction pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 65 (Rule 65) or other similar interim relief
(ECF #30), (which was referred to this Magistrate
Judge (ECF #37)), and Plaintiffs' (Conservation Groups)
response (ECF # 41). The Court has reviewed each of the
aforementioned documents and any attachments. The Court has
also considered the entire case file, the applicable law, and
is sufficiently advised in the premises. Oral argument is not
necessary to resolve this discrete issue. For the following
reasons, I DENY the motion.
bring suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against
the Defendants for alleged violations of the National
Environmental Policy Act 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et
seq. (“NEPA”) (ECF #14, p. 2). Plaintiffs
seek to stop construction of up to 33 new well pads, 146 new
natural gas wells, and 4 new waste-water disposal wells
potentially forthcoming due to the BLM's decision to
approve the Bull Mountain Unit Master Development Plan.
Id. These proposed natural gas activities are slated
to take place 30 miles northeast of the Town of Paonia.
Id. at p. 3. The Bull Mountain Unit MDP consists of
approximately 19, 670 acres of federal and private subsurface
mineral estate. Id.
Interests, the anticipated developer of a significant portion
of the Bull Mountain project, moved to intervene (ECF #24)
and was allowed to intervene (ECF #26). Over the course of
the winter of 2017/18, discussions have occurred with regard
to SG's intent to begin some drilling operations in the
Bull Mountain Unit during the 2018 drilling season (ECF #30,
pp. 4-5). The parties (Plaintiffs and SG) attempted to reach
some compromise as to the number of wells that SG could drill
without triggering a request for preliminary injunction from
Plaintiffs (Plaintiffs' response (ECF #41, p. 4)). Those
negotiations broke down somewhere between 2 and 6 wells, with
the parties unable to agree on an appropriate number.
Id. at p. 5.
citing no legal authority for their proposition, SG moves the
Court for an Order essentially requiring Plaintiffs to either
file or forego any opportunity to seek preliminary injunctive
relief (seeking a filing deadline of March 2, 2018) (ECF #30,
p. 8). While the requested date has now passed (SG filed its
motion on 2/23 essentially making it impossible to get an
informed Order out prior to the requested deadline) the issue
is not moot as the Court construes the motion as requesting a
firm deadline, not necessarily limited to March 2, 2018.
equities of SG's request are apparent. If SG is going to
begin drilling in the Bull Mountain Unit, it will be in the
position of expending significant resources: financial;
human; and opportunity costs (ECF #30, p. 7). As the Bull
Mountain Unit is high in the North Fork Valley, the drilling
season is short and decisions need to be made forthwith (ECF
#30). See also Amended Complaint, ECF #14. For those
reasons, SG would like to have some certainty that, should
drilling commence, it will not immediately be interrupted by
a preliminary injunction. However, that is not a certainty
the Court can provide.
has no temporal limitation written into its black letter law.
It is certainly within the preview of the Court to control
its own docket by setting limitations as to filing and other
deadlines. See generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 16. Yet,
Plaintiffs set forth numerous compelling reasons why setting
such a deadline would not be appropriate in this
circumstance: (1) Plaintiffs' need to review the
administrative record prior to determining the efficacy of
filing such a request (ECF #41, p. 6); unknown impacts during
the drilling process which may necessitate a preliminary
injunction request (ECF #41, p. 7); or (3) unknown factors
which may arise later in the case (ECF #41, p. 7).
Acknowledging that all these possibilities and more may lead
to a later need to request preliminary injunctive relief, the
Court is unwilling to set a deadline for filing or requesting
to some significant extent, Plaintiffs are on notice. As
correctly cited by Plaintiffs in their response,
“irreparable harm” is one of the four factors
that the Court must consider in determining whether to impose
a preliminary injunction. ECF #41, p. 6 (citing RoDa
Drilling Co. v. Siegal, 552 F.3d 1203, 1208-09
(10th Cir. 2009) (additional citation removed).
And while delay, in and of itself, is not a proper basis for
denying a preliminary injunction, it is to be considered as
part of the analysis of the irreparable harm prong. See
Gordon v. Holder, 632 F.3d 722, 724 (U.S. App. D.C.
2011) (collecting cases).
should SG proceed with its current stated plan of drilling 6
wells during the 2018 season and should Plaintiffs choose to
file for a preliminary injunction after commencement of that
process, the Court will consider the equities of the
situation at that time. While there may be good and proper
reasons for a delay (and perhaps no such motion will ever be
filed), it may be incumbent on Plaintiffs to later justify
any delay as set forth above and failure to so justify could
be fatal to a later preliminary injunction request.
for the foregoing reasons, SG's motion is DENIED. Dated:
Grand Junction, Colorado, this March 11, 2018.
 “(ECF #30)” is an example
of the convention I use to identify the docket number
assigned to a specific paper by the Court's case
management and electronic case filing system (CM/ECF). I use
this convention throughout this Order.
 Any party may object to this
non-dispositive Order within fourteen (14) days. ...