Paul L. Bloom, a renowned water and energy lawyer who also secured billions of dollars in oil-company refunds during his time in the Carter Administration, died on Oct. 9, in Chevy Chase, Md. He had been suffering from cancer. He was 70.
Bloom began his celebrated career at the State Engineer's Office. In 1966, a year after earning his law degree from the UNM School of Law, he filed the Aamodt water-rights lawsuit, which became one of the longest-running lawsuits in the federal court system. Now, 43 years later, Congress is currently considering a settlement to resolve water-rights issues in the Nambe-Tesuque-Pojoaque valley.
In a message to Bloom's family, former Gov. Bruce King described Bloom as, "an exceptionally gifted public servant. As chief counsel to the legendary State Engineer Steve Reynolds and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, he drafted much of the definitive legislation and developed the rules and regulations that established the doctrine of prior appropriation as the standard of water law in the Western United States."
Later, as a contract attorney to the governor's office, local governments and acequias, King said, Bloom "brought cases before New Mexico courts that often established precedents for future legal disputes."
Bloom also left his mark in New Mexico for his late-1990s-early 2000s work for several tribal communities, in particular the Zuni, who credit him with saving their sacred Zuni Salt Lake from a proposed strip-mining operation. The Salt River Project was abandoned in 2003.
In 1977, James Schlesinger, the first secretary of the new Department of Energy, appointed Bloom to investigate the compliance of oil companies with oil pricing regulations. As special counsel for compliance, Bloom accused 33 of the 35 largest oil producers and refiners of overcharges amounting to $11 billion. By 1987, the government had collected $6 billion in refunds as a result of his lawsuits.
Price controls on crude oil and other petroleum products were established by President Richard Nixon during the Arab oil embargo of 1973. President Ronald Reagan discontinued the controls in 1981.
Near the end of the Carter Administration, Bloom distributed $4 million to four charities, maintaining it was the best way to help poor people with their heating bills.
After Carter left office, Bloom remained in Washington to practice law.
Bloom was born in Norfolk, Va., and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie; his sons Adam and Judah; and his daughter, Ester Bloom. The family has set up a website in his honor.
The Bloom family also has established the Paul L. Bloom Memorial Fund at the UNM School of Law. Friends wishing to donate can click here, select School of Law from the drop-down menu and then type in Paul L. Bloom Memorial Fund. Please contact Hannah Farrington, Director of Development, 505.277.1038 with any questions.