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Adjudication of Interior Department Decisions

Lyle K. Rising, Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Pooling and Unitization II (1990)

Every appeal starts with a decision that someone doesn't like — such as an order, or a notice of violation, or an assessment of civil penalties. Within the Department of the Interior, the appeals route ends at the same place, that is with a decision or order from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, usually known by its acronym as I-B-L-A or IBLA. While it's entirely possible to go on to judicial review in the Federal court system from an IBLA decision, as a practical matter, few people do.

Two factors determine which appeals route you're on. The first factor is which official in which agency made the decision. These agencies are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Minerals Management Service (MMS).1 Right away this narrows one's appeals options. A decision from a BLM district manager (DM) concerning units is certainly not going to be appealed to the Director of MMS.

The second important factor in determining which route to take is the subject matter of the order you want to appeal. For appeals from BLM decisions, there are three different subject areas. The first subject matter area leads to the simplest appeals route directly to the IBLA. This subject matter area covers the leasing stage — that is all the problems involved in the issuance of the lease, questions about the terms of the lease and rentals. This subject matter essentially includes everyth