(CN) – The 10th Circuit rejected a challenge to oil and gas development in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, saying that the Bureau of Land Management didn’t have to consider environmentalists’ plan to phase in development over several decades.
The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and others claimed that the bureau wrongly refused to consider their alternative for drilling, which would cluster wells geographically and maintain open space. Developers would only be allowed to exploit one seam of coal at a time, and have to reclaim areas before new drilling.
The environmentalists’ plan also involved compensation from federal and private developers to prevent “drainage” of natural gas.
The Denver-based appellate court ruled that the Bureau of Land Management reasonably concluded the phased development would not fulfill the goals of the project, and therefore didn’t have to consider it.
Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Paul J. Kelly pointed out that the bureau does not have the power to make the required demands from private and federal energy developers, making the environmentalists’ compensatory scheme unrealistic.
Besides which, the appellate court said in upholding the trial court’s decision that the bureau adequately considered all alternatives, phased development does not meet the nation’s energy needs.
The bureau “was right to question whether it could delay development for decades,” the circuit concluded.