On Tuesday, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) filed a petition for a stay and administrative challenge to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) approval of two Gasco Production Company-proposed oil wells in the Riverbend area of Utah’s Uinta Basin. SUWA filed this challenge with the Interior Board of Land Appeals, an administrative court that has the authority to overturn BLM decisions.
In August of this year the BLM approved Gasco’s proposal to drill two oil wells on federal public lands: the Federal 23-30G-9-19 and the Federal 34-19G-9-19 locations. However, as SUWA alleges in its administrative challenge, the BLM’s approval of this project failed to consider environmental impacts to water and air as well impacts on nearby at-risk communities. These wells would be located in the Uinta Basin where ozone pollution is widely recognized as being some of the worst in the country.
“We are troubled by the BLM’s disregard for important environmental issues in this area,” said Steve Bloch, an attorney with SUWA.
If SUWA’s appeal is upheld, the BLM’s approval of these two wells will be set-aside and BLM will be instructed to prepare a new analysis. In that case, Gasco could not drill these wells or benefit from production until BLM issued a new authorization, if at all.
SUWA, is a Utah-based environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of public lands in Utah. It has frequently challenged BLM oil and gas approvals on public lands in the state and succeeded in reversing such decisions. Recently, it was a lead group in obtaining a court order that prevented the BLM from issuing oil and gas leases auctioned as the controversial December 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah.