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Court Puts Brakes on CBM Production in Montana Section of Powder River Basin

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last Tuesday issued an emergency injunction to halt the development of coal-bed methane (CBM) in the Montana section of the Powder River Basin while an appeal of the case is pending.

The injunction, which was sought separately by the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe, the Northern Plains Resource Council (NPRC) and other groups, bars the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from approving any CBM production projects in the Powder River Basin of Montana, and enjoins Fidelity Exploration and Production Co. from drilling any additional wells in its Coal Creek Project, or from constructing any infrastructure to serve the wells.

This latest action puts the brakes on an April decision of a federal magistrate in Billings, MT, who ruled that BLM could allow the drilling of up to 500 wells each year in a 450-square-mile section of Montana while the agency worked on the environmental impact study.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for September, with a decision expected in the fall, a spokeswoman for the NPRC said.

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