Quantcast

BLM Sends Three Colorado Drilling Projects Back to the Drawing Board, But Fails to Properly Review 30 Other Projects

Energy

Earthjustice

The Roan Plateau towers 3,000 feet above the Colorado River Valley with hundreds of oil and gas wells dotting the landscape. Photo courtesy Bruce Gordon/EcoFlight.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) moved Tuesday for a “voluntary remand” of three oil and gas drilling projects in Garfield County Colorado near the Roan Plateau. The agency plans to conduct additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of the air pollution caused by the projects. BLM claims it will not approve additional drilling permits implementing the projects until it completes its additional analysis.
 
The three projects, authorizing nearly 400 oil and gas wells, have been challenged in federal court by conservation groups represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice. In June 2011, Wilderness Workshop, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club filed the case, Wilderness Workshop v. Crockett, alleging that BLM violated NEPA by approving oil and gas projects without conducting any environmental analysis of the air pollution they would cause.
 
BLM’s move, however, fails to address the much larger problem targeted by the lawsuit. The three projects represent only a few examples of a broader practice in which BLM has approved at least 33 drilling projects—involving thousands of wells—with no air pollution analysis.
 
“We’re pleased that this case led BLM to acknowledge that the approval of these projects was illegal,” said Earthjustice attorney Alison Flint. “But these three projects are just the tip of the iceberg. BLM has refused to do anything about dozens of other oil and gas projects in western Colorado that suffer from the exact same flaw. The drilling from those other projects continues to cause smog and spew toxic air pollutants that threaten the health of Coloradans and degrade the vistas in our state.”
 
Since 2005, BLM has avoided addressing the air pollution from dozens of federally-approved drilling projects in western Colorado by claiming to rely on an earlier NEPA document that does not actually cover the drilling in question. That earlier analysis, a 2006 environmental impact statement for the Roan Plateau, covered only a limited amount of drilling on the Roan Plateau but did not address air pollution from projects in the surrounding area. Despite its limits, BLM relied on the Roan Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to approve dozens of projects in the surrounding area that were not covered by that EIS. As a result, BLM has never considered the air pollution caused by those projects.     
 
“Over the past several years, BLM has adopted a practice of cutting and pasting incorrect boilerplate statements about the Roan Plateau EIS into its environmental analyses for dozens of projects,” said Peter Hart of Wilderness Workshop. “This shell game has allowed BLM to approve thousands of new wells without considering the air pollution they will cause.”
 
BLM’s request to reconsider three of those projects comes on the heels of a June 2012 ruling by U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger in a related case, Colorado Environmental Coalition v. Salazar. That ruling struck down the Roan Plateau EIS because it did not consider air pollution from the oil and gas fields surrounding the Roan.
 
In Tuesday’s motion, BLM asked the Court to dismiss Wilderness Workshop v. Crockett because the agency will reconsider the three projects targeted in the case. BLM, however, declined to reconsider at least thirty other oil and gas projects that also relied on the Roan EIS. As a result, the Wilderness Workshop Plaintiffs plan to press on with the lawsuit.
 
“Remanding these three projects is a good first step,” said Alison Flint. “But the agency has a responsibility to correct all its mistakes, not just three examples of this illegal practice.”
 
“BLM needs to slow down and take a hard look at the cumulative impacts from all the air pollution it has authorized in recent years, not just these few projects,” cautioned NRDC attorney Sharon Buccino. “Drilling poses real health risks for western Colorado communities, and BLM has no way to minimize those impacts—or disclose them to the public—if it does not have the whole picture in front of it.”

 Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Smog over Los Angeles. Westend61 / Getty Images

After four decades of improving air quality, the U.S. has started to take a step backwards, as the number of polluted days has ticked upwards over the last two years, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
Photobos / iStock / Getty Images

Governors in Vermont and Maine signed bills on Monday that will ban plastic bags in their states next year, The Hill reported.

The Maine ban will go into effect next Earth Day, April 22, 2020. The Vermont ban, which extends beyond plastic bags and is the most comprehensive plastics ban so far, will go into effect in July 2020. The wait time is designed to give businesses time to adjust to the ban.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
picture-alliance / AP Images / D. Goldman

By Daniel Moattar

Eastern Kentucky's hills are interrupted by jarring flats of bare rock: the aftermath of mountaintop removal mining, which uses explosives to destroy and harvest coal-rich peaks.

Read More Show Less
Members of Fossil Free Tompkins march at a parade in Ithaca. Fossil Free Tompkins

By Molly Taft

Lisa Marshall isn't your typical activist. For one thing, she's not into crowds. "I don't really like rallies," Marshall, a mom of three from upstate New York, said. "They're a little stressful — not my favorite thing."

Read More Show Less
An oil drilling site in a residential area of Los Angeles, California on July 16, 2014. Faces of Fracking / Flickr

By Jake Johnson

A comprehensive analysis of nearly 1,500 scientific studies, government reports, and media stories on the consequences of fracking released Wednesday found that the evidence overwhelmingly shows the drilling method poses a profound threat to public health and the climate.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
sonsam / iStock / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study published in Environmental Research found that nitrate, one of the most common contaminants of drinking water, may cause up to 12,594 cases of cancer per year, but that's not its only danger: It can pose unique health risks to children.

Read More Show Less
Melt water from Everest's Khumbu glacier. Ed Giles / Getty Images

The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting twice as fast as they were in the year 2000, a study published Wednesday in Science Advances found.

Read More Show Less
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs his replacement for the Clean Power Plan. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Former coal lobbyist and Trump-appointed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a rule Wednesday that officially replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a new regulation that Wheeler said could lead to the opening of more coal plants, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less