The Powder River Basin Resource Council has filed pleadings in Wyoming district court in opposition to the governor's rejection of reforms to the management of coalbed methane (CBM) discharge water. The citizens group said Gov. Dave Freudenthal's move to block the "thoroughly debated citizen initiative" was "arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with the law."

In late April Freudenthal said he would not approve the proposed rule as it reaches beyond the authority of the state's Environmental Quality Act. The proposed rule had cleared the state's Environmental Quality Council (EQC) in February after more than a year of hearings, revisions and debate. The rule, as promulgated by the EQC, would have required Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to require industry applicants to submit representative and valid data to support their applications for permits to discharge CBM water.

The data would be used to determine that discharged water is actually put to livestock or wildlife use during periods of discharge and that the quantity of CBM water discharged does not affect overall water quality in the area.

"The council [EQC] realized that DEQ's assumption that all the CBM water is being beneficially used by livestock and wildlife is not a legitimate way to issue permits," said rancher Bill West. "In fact, very little of the CBM water is put to use."

"The governor's conclusion that the rules reach beyond the statutory authority of the Environmental Quality Act is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, not in accordance with the law and unsupported by substantial evidence," Powder River said in its filing for review of the decision.

Powder River Chairman Bob LeResche said he was concerned by the governor's assertion that the EQC can't promulgate citizen-proposed rules without first clearing them with the DEQ.

"One of the things the governor claims is that they can't change a rule at the request of citizens -- that it has to originate with some bureaucrat," LeResche said. "But that's not the way democracy works. It's not the way rules are set up in Wyoming. Our citizens in Wyoming have successfully petitioned the council before, and other governors have not demanded bureaucratic approval."

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