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Groups Appeal Wyoming Coalbed Methane Project

Waste water likely to leak into water table
July 23, 2002
Laramie, WY —

Citing violations of federal environmental laws and concerns about water quality in the Medicine Bow River and Seminoe Reservoir, conservation groups appealed the Hanna Draw Coalbed Methane Project. The groups, led by Wyoming Outdoor Council and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance filed their appeal on Thursday, July 18th. The appeal will now be reviewed by the Wyoming State Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Susan Daggett of Earthjustice is providing legal representation for the groups in the administrative appeal process.

"The drilling would occur right along the Medicine Bow River," said Erik Molvar of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, "It would produce millions of gallons of alkaline water that could drain into local waterways and ultimately poison Seminoe Reservoir and the Miracle Mile."

The groups cited violations of federal laws governing land use plans and environmental impact analysis.

"The most disturbing aspect of this project," stated Tom Darin, staff attorney with WOC, "is that BLM is knowingly approving it in violation of federal law." Darin added, "The Department of Interior has already provided the Rawlins Field Office initial guidance that CBM extraction is not appropriate as a land use until BLM amends the outdated 1990 Great Divide land use plan."

The project is planned along the Medicine Bow River near the Hanna-Leo Road, about 12 miles north of the town of Hanna. The site is just upstream of Seminoe Reservoir, which drains into the Miracle Mile, a famous blue-ribbon trout fishery.

"In this case, BLM and industry propose dumping all of the produced water into an unlined earthen pit, intentionally designed to leak into the water table," Darin remarked. "Yet - and this point is unbelievable - BLM and industry never bothered to study the downstream effects this water will have once it enters the water table and resurfaces in streams and ultimately Seminoe Reservoir."

"There has never been a broad-scale assessment of the impacts of coalbed methane drilling in this area," Molvar pointed out. "With the growing number of CBM projects that will discharge water into local streams, the BLM needs to take a hard look at how much tainted water our waterways can absorb."

" Americans are getting sick of waking up every morning and reading about another insider deal, especially ones involving their own government officials," observed Susan Daggett of Earthjustice. "The Bush administration was told that going ahead with coalbed methane gas development was illegal by their own people and yet they did it anyway."

The above photo showing the Medicine Bow River flowing through the project area is available for news publication. Photo credit should read "Photo courtesy of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance."

Contacts

Erik Molvar, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance 307-745-0395, 307-742-7978

Tom Darin, Wyoming Outdoor Council (307) 332-7031

Susan Daggett, Earthjustice (303) 623-9466

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.