DENVER — The federal Bureau of Land Management has illegally pushed through dozens of oil and gas projects in western Colorado without doing any analysis of their air pollution impacts, according to a lawsuit filed by environmental and health groups.
Posted by Staff
Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by public interest law firm Earthjustice on behalf of Wilderness Workshop, the Natural Resources Defense Council ( NRDC ), the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society, the lawsuit, according to the plaintiffs, shows that BLM has violated the National Environmental Policy Act ( NEPA ) by failing to analyze the air pollution resulting from thousands of new oil and gas wells it has approved in recent years.
“BLM is turning a blind eye to the air pollution and health impacts that result from the oil and gas projects it authorizes,” said Michael Freeman, lead Earthjustice attorney on the case.
“Communities have a right to know how the air they breathe will be degraded by new drilling in Colorado.”
The groups say the lack of analysis has been obscured through sleight of hand by the agency: in more than 30 environmental assessments for oil and gas projects issued by BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office, BLM asserted that the resulting air pollution had already been analyzed in a 2006 environmental impact statement ( EIS ) prepared by the field office when it approved leasing the Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling.
In reality, the Roan EIS did not account for any of these other projects—some of which are more than ten miles away from the Plateau. As a result, the air pollution that actually results from those projects has never been considered by BLM.
“Over the past several years, BLM has approved thousands of oil and gas wells with no analysis of the air pollution they cause,” said Peter Hart of Wilderness Workshop.
“Instead, the agency simply cut-and-pasted incorrect boilerplate statements about the Roan EIS into its environmental analyses for dozens of projects.”
The complaint specifically targets three examples of the practice: a 2008 proposal by Williams Energy; an Antero Resources project approved in 2010; and a 2010 Laramie Energy plan. The three projects involve a combined total of nearly 400 oil and gas wells.
The complaint seeks an order directing BLM to halt its improper reliance on the Roan EIS. The plaintiffs also seek to require the agency to analyze the air pollution from each of the projects, with a NEPA analysis that also addresses the cumulative air pollution caused by the numerous similarly-flawed oil and gas projects.
“BLM needs to slow down and take a hard look at all the air pollution it has authorized in recent years,” said Sharon Buccino of NRDC. “Drilling poses real health risks for western Colorado communities, and the residents need BLM’s protection.”