By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Nov. 16 -- The US Supreme Court had declined to hear an appeal by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which sought to overturn a US Forest Service decision not to lease lands in the Lewis and Clark National Forest of Montana.
Barry Russell, IPAA president, said, "The Clinton Administration closed nearly a million acres of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana to oil and natural gas leasing due to 'spirituality' and 'value of place.'
"The District Court ruled that IPAA had no right to challenge the action [standing] because the alleged violations dealt with the National Environmental Policy Act, which is an environmental statute, and IPAA's petition was not addressing environmental protection. The District Court also held that federal law allows the US Forest Service to place emotional concerns above scientific findings. In addition, the District Court ruled that 'value of place' concerns, which are not to be found in statute or regulation, are part of tourism and recreation.
"The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a short decision addressed only the question of IPAA's standing to litigate the Forest Service decision. The Ninth Circuit held that IPAA did not have standing because NEPA protects the environment, not procedure or economic matters."
Russell said the fact that the Supreme Court denied to hear the appeal regarding its standing does not constitute a decision by the court on any legal issues raised by the case.