DENVER (CN) — Environmentalists have sued the Bureau of Land Management, claiming it illegally approved drilling of 4,198 oil and gas wells on 147,000 acres in the Colorado River Valley, and leasing another 456,100 acres for other projects.
Wilderness Workshop et al. challenge the BLM’s Resource Management Plan for the Colorado River Valley, a gigantic stretch from Vail to Grand Junction to Steamboat Springs and Aspen. They say the management plan violates the National Environmental Planning Act, and is too superficial to anticipate the environmental impact it will have on the Upper Colorado River, which provides water to 40 million people, and is pivotal to the welfare of Coloradans and several important wildlife species.
The affected land hosts America’s largest elk herd, bighorn sheep, Canada lynx, cutthroat trout, sage grouse and other species.
It includes 505,200 acres of public land and 701,200 acres of federal mineral interests in BLM jurisdiction. Even on land that will not be fouled with drilling, the groups say, no account has been taken for oil and gas combustion emissions, methane pollution, and “the full effect that oil and gas development has on human health and on the communities affected by the industrialization of our public lands.”
The Wilderness Workshop, Western Colorado Congress, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club also say the BLM did not consider alternatives to reduce the acreage available for oil and gas leases.
“BLM failed to analyze these factors adequately in its NEPA documents and approved the Colorado River Valley RMP [Resource Management Plan] without sufficient analysis,” the complaint states.
Although the BLM claims that “most future drilling will take place in areas where oil and gas development has already occurred,” the complaint states, “(t)his would increase well density in these already developed areas, amplifying and exacerbating the potential health impacts to the thousands of people that live and work within one mile of these areas, and could adversely affect additional populations that rely on clean air and drinking water in the Colorado River Valley planning area.”
The Wilderness Workshop says that many of its 700 members live and work in the area affected by the management plan.
The BLM did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Nor did plaintiffs’ attorney Laura King, with the Western Environmental Law Center, in Helena, Mont.
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