Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Environmental groups sue over OK for BLM drilling in Utah

A consortium of environmental groups has filed suit challenging the BLM’s decision to authorize drilling in unroaded wilderness-caliber lands surrounding Desolation Canyon. Last June, Denver-based Gasco Energy gained federal approval to develop nearly 1,300 wells over a 207,000-acre project area in the southeast corner of the Uinta Basin where it transitions to the Tavaputs Plateau. The dispute is not so much over the amount of wells and associated infrastructure, but where this development will occur and its potential to further degrade the basin’s air quality. In a federal suit filed Friday in Salt Lake City, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other groups say Interior Secretary Ken Salazar botched the call in approving up to 215 wells on land proposed for wilderness near the Green River’s most scenic, remote stretches. The BLM also approved drilling in the Pariette Wetlands and Nine Mile Canyon areas of critical environmental concern. Nearly one-fifth of the project area is roadless, according to the suit. A compromise proposal advanced by conservationists called for 1,100 wells concentrated in areas that are already developed and are less sensitive. But Interior chose to "put one company’s profits above the protection of this world-class landscape," said SUWA’s Steve Bloch. Joining SUWA as plaintiffs are The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. Bloch conceded that the BLM did not authorize drilling within Desolation Canyon proper, but sights, sounds and smells of development will be apparent to river runners putting in at and floating by Sand Wash...more

I thought the sight and sounds criteria was dropped by the Forest Service years ago - so more lands could be designated as wilderness.  Now the enviros are using sight and sounds to promote wilderness?

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