Several environmental groups led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are seeking a temporary restraining order to once again try to prevent natural gas development in the Atlantic Rim play in Carbon County, WY.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), acting on a petition from Warren Resources Inc. and its partner Anadarko Petroleum Corp., in May issued a Record of Decision (ROD) and a Final Environmental Impact Study that would allow drilling of up to 2,000 wells, most of them coalbed methane (CBM), in the Atlantic Rim area, which holds the potential for 1-2 Tcfe of reserves (see NGI, May 28). Following the ROD, two groups, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), appealed and asked that development activities be stayed. However, last month, the BLM appeals board rejected those pleas (see NGI, Sept. 10).

The NRDC, joined by the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Western Watersheds Project and Wyoming Wilderness Association, requested a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (1:17-cf-01709-ESH). The lawsuit asked the court to rescind the applications for permits to drill until BLM corrects “violations” in the ROD that it said pertain to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

Specifically, the NRDC lawsuit challenges actions by the Department of Interior and BLM to approve “ground disturbing activities” as part of the Atlantic Rim Natural Gas Field Development Project in Wyoming’s Red Desert. These activities include drilling new wells, as well as blazing new roads across previously untouched areas. Drilling and road construction is occurring now, the lawsuit noted.

“Specifically, BLM has approved at least 90 new wells in the project area without providing the public participation or the analysis required by [NEPA],” the lawsuit noted. “In addition to the 90 new wells that BLM has already approved, 243 more applications for permits to drill are pending before the agency. BLM could approve the applications for many of these additional wells at any time.

“The proposed project area is a place of stunning beauty with rolling hills, canyons, dune fields and diverse sagebrush communities,” the lawsuit stated. “With consistent water resources, the Atlantic Rim contains some of Wyoming’s best wildlife habitat for species such as elk, pronghorn antelope and sage grouse. Thousands of citizens across America value the proposed project area for hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing — a place of solitude to reflect and recharge.”

The plaintiffs further noted that BLM “is well aware of this widespread interest in the lands at issue. Yet the agency has proceeded full steam ahead with rapid energy development that has and will continue to harm other valuable uses of the affected lands.”

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