Judge: BLM, Forest Service didn't comply with law in drilling study

By Nicholas Sakelaris

March 28 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to do more research on drilling proposals in Colorado conservationists worry will harm the environment and animals.

Specifically, the plans call for gas drilling in western Colorado that would create nearly 150 new gas and waste water wells. Environmentalists said in a lawsuit the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Wednesday, a judge agreed that not enough study was done and ordered the BLM and Forest Service to do more and cooperate with conservation groups.


U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock said the studies failed by not sufficiently examining "reasonably foreseeable indirect impacts of oil and gas." He also said the agencies must specify the areas they studied.

Colorado lawmakers have been considering tougher drilling requirements that prioritize public health and safety and provide more local control. Legislation has cleared committees and was sent to the full Colorado House Wednesday.

Industry leaders oppose the bill, saying it endangers a multi-billion-dollar industry in the state.

The Citizens for a Healthy Community said in a statement the government's drilling study didn't analyze effects hydraulic fracking would have on wildlife, including elk and mule deer habitats.


"This is an important win for our public lands, the climate and the tenacity of the North Fork Valley community," Executive Director Natasha Leger said. "Requiring the Bureau of Land Management to clearly and properly analyze all potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of this large-scale industrial oil and gas development project is absolutely critical to protecting the rare and irreplaceable ecosystem."

Allison Melton, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the BLM shouldn't force Colorado to risk wildlife populations for the Trump administration's "reckless drill-anywhere agenda."

"It's wonderful to see the court recognize that the BLM can't just ignore the significant harm to these animals," she said.

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