Climate + Energy

A One-Two Punch in Defense of Clean Air

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Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado and northeast Utah.

This week, WildEarth Guardians stepped up to defend clean air in the American West and push back fiercely against the Trump Administration’s plans to sacrifice our public lands for fracking.

On Wednesday, we moved to block the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of 3,500 new oil and gas wells in the Upper Green River region of western Wyoming.  Called the Normally Pressured Lance Natural Gas Development Project, these new wells threaten to bring a flood of fracking to this remote region, decimating public lands and destroying the region’s clean air.

For years, the Upper Green River region has struggled with dangerous levels of ground-level ozone pollution. Ozone is the key ingredient of smog and normally it’s a big city problem, not a rural American West problem.

The culprit behind this big city smog in Wyoming? Unchecked drilling and fracking, including in the nearby Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline areas.

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of these new wells only promises to worsen air quality in the region, which violates the Clean Air Act.

 

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Drilling and fracking in the Jonah Field, which is directly east of the Normally Pressured Lance project area, has fueled high smog levels in the area. The Normally Pressured Lance project would add to the Upper Green River region’s air pollution woes.

Citing the risks to clean air and the agency’s illegal actions, we called on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Board of Land Appeals to stay the development and protect the region’s health and air quality.

With Jonah Energy, the company behind the project, indicating it intends to begin drilling imminently, we called on the Board to order a halt to development pending resolution of our appeal.

From our perspective, although the area is rural, the health of rural communities matters just as much as the health of big city residents. We simply can’t afford to let 3,500 new wells in an area already suffering from dangerous air pollution.

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The Uinta Mountains rise above the Greater Dinosaur region of northeast Utah and northwest Colorado.

Then on Thursday, we joined a coalition in filing suit to overturn the Trump Administration sale of 115,000 acres of public lands in Colorado and Utah for fracking.

The case centers on the Greater Dinosaur National Monument region of northeast Utah and northwest Colorado, an area that, like Wyoming, is experiencing dangerous levels of smog pollution fueled by unchecked drilling and fracking.

In fact, just this year, the region was declared a “nonattainment area,” which is a technical term for an area that is violating health-based limits on ground-level ozone pollution.

Despite the region’s unhealthy air pollution, the Bureau of Land Management auctioned away vast swaths of the region to the oil and gas industry in December of 2017 and June of 2018.

In doing so, the agency illegally ignored the air quality implications of its actions and refused to impose any limits to protect clean air.

Our suit aims to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s sale of these public lands and to defend our right to clean air and a safe environment.

Filed in federal court in Colorado, the coalition behind the lawsuit includes us, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, and Rocky Mountain Wild.

While clean air is on the line in all these cases, success promises huge benefits for our climate, for public lands, and for our clean energy future. The bottomline is, we have to keep our fossil fuels in the ground and WildEarth Guardians is doing everything it can to make this happen.