CHC Seeks Reversal of Whitewater Drilling Approval

July 17, 2014 –

Conservation groups filed a request for State Director Review (SDR) this week regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) approval of 108 new oil wells in western Colorado, southeast of Grand Junction, at the foot of the Grand Mesa. The wells were approved through a faulty process that lacked the required public input and the mandated rigorous analysis of environmental impacts.

“This leap before you look attitude is exactly what’s wrong with the federal government’s oil and gas program,” said Jim Ramey, Executive Director of Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC), a nonprofit conservation group based in Paonia, Colo. “Despite the fact that BLM is still finalizing its new Resource Management Plan for the area, and is currently working on a comprehensive air study, the agency is moving forward with an uninformed and inappropriate decision.”

On June 13, the BLM Grand Junction Field Office (GJFO) approved the drilling plan without conducting the legally required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze potential impacts of the project. An EIS is required when a decision by the federal government may significantly impact the environment.

“The BLM has failed to adequately consider the impacts of this project on important values such as air quality, water resources, and the area’s abundant wildlife, which is all the more troubling given other existing and proposed oil and gas development threatening the area,” said Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) attorney Kyle Tisdel, who is representing CHC in the matter. “What’s worse, BLM failed to allow for public review and participation before making its final decision.”

In response, the groups have filed a request with BLM State Director, Ruth Welch, seeking her review the GJFO’s decision. The request asks the Director to reverse the agency’s approval of the project and require the GJFO to prepare a more thorough EIS that will take the necessary hard look at impacts from the project.

CHC is a grass-roots organization formed by a group of Delta County, Colorado residents in 2010 for the purpose of protecting people and their environment from irresponsible oil and gas development in the Delta County region. CHC’s members and supporters include local farmers, ranchers, vineyard and winery owners, sportsmen, small business owners, and other concerned residents impacted by oil and gas development. CHC has been an active participant in the process of commenting on issues related to oil and gas development in the region, including on development proposals submitted for the Whitewater area.

WELC is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm with offices across the West in Oregon, Montana, and New Mexico. WELC uses the power of the law to safeguard the wildlife, wildlands, and communities of the American West. WELC integrates national policies and regional perspective with the local knowledge of our 100+ partner groups to implement smart and appropriate place-based actions.

Click here to read the request for State Director Review.


Photo Credit Michael Hall (backseatpilot on Flickr).

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