Regional Air Quality
WW is suing the BLM over its approval of 1,400 wells
In June 2011, WW and pro bono counsel EarthJustice filed suit to force the BLM’s Colorado River Field Office to revisit its approvals of nearly 1,400 as-yet-undrilled gas wells. We believe that these approvals are the smoking gun that proves what we have been saying all along, that the BLM is approving drilling projects in piecemeal, cookie-cutter fashion without considering the cumulative and off-site impacts.
In Wilderness Workshop v. Crockett, we allege that for several years starting in 2005 the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office systematically ignored the potential air pollution from the projects it approved. It simply cut and pasted boilerplate analysis from an environmental impact statement that it did as part of a development plan for the Roan Plateau — a plan that a federal judge sent back to the drawing board because (among other things) it failed to take a hard look at air pollution! The BLM has been playing a shell game that has allowed it to approve thousands of new wells without considering the cumulative impacts.
In effect, the suit demands that the agency enact a moratorium on all further approvals until it has properly analyzed the air-quality impacts of drilling. These impacts will potentially be felt throughout the I-70 corridor and in downwind “Class I Airsheds” such as the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, where the Clean Air Act prohibits any degradation of air quality.
The moratorium that we’re seeking will be only temporary, but if the agency’s analysis is rigorous it will likely show enormous impairment of air quality, thus slowing the pace of development and forcing the industry to clean up its act. This is good for the local environment and human population, and could set a valuable legal precedent nationally. It also has potential synergistic effects with the recently announced toxic tort case led by a high-powered law firm out of New York, which aims to take industry to task for its health effects on surrounding communities.