CA10: BLM can’t force oil and gas operator to put BLM’s lock and key on property for annual inspections

Plaintiff has oil and gas leases on private lands of a third party in Southwest Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management sought “lock and key” authority to have access to the property to conduct annual inspections. Plaintiff brought a Fourth and Fifth Amendment challenge which isn’t squarely asserted throughout the appeal. The court still finds that there is no statutory authority for the “lock and key” requirement where the operator or landowner can insure that those entering the lands are BLM inspectors. Maralex Resources, Inc. v. Barnhardt, 17-1421 (10th Cir. Jan. 18, 2019):

We agree with plaintiffs that the BLM lacks authority to require an operator or landowner to provide the BLM with a key to the landowner’s locked gates or to allow the BLM to place its own locks on the landowner’s locked gates. But we arrive at this conclusion in a different manner than suggested by plaintiffs. Although plaintiffs base many of their arguments on the language of § 1718(b), that statutory subsection, as discussed above, does not apply at all to lease sites on privately-owned lands. Instead, the parameters of inspections of lease sites on privately-owned lands are outlined in two regulations: 30 C.F.R. §§ 3162.1 and 3163.3. Neither of those regulations provide any authority for the BLM to require an operating rights owner or operator (or, for that matter, a private landowner) to (a) provide BLM with a key to a lease site on privately-owned land, or (b) to install a BLM-lock on the gates to such lease site. Rather, as discussed above, the BLM has the right to conduct unannounced inspections of such sites, but must rely on the operating rights owner or operator to afford them entry to the lease site.

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