Agency sets ball in motion to allow drilling within half a mile of national monument
Salt Lake City, Utah – Today, the Biden administration released a proposal to authorize oil and gas drilling within half a mile of Dinosaur National Monument.
The proposal, referred to as the Federal Pipeline Unit Wells project (pdf), involves the construction and installation of new well pads, roads, pipelines and the drilling of two wells; a plan that will industrialize the western edge of the monument. Dinosaur National Monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and artifacts and paleontological resources. According to the National Park Service, the monument “is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States. Because there is little light pollution here, you can see the stars of the Milky Way galaxy with startling clarity.”
“Drilling and road blasting about a quarter of a mile from Dinosaur National Monument would damage the views, quiet and dark night skies in a remote part of the park and pollute the park’s air and water,” said Cory MacNulty, southwest associate director at the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is a zombie lease from almost two decades ago that should never have been allowed in the first place and an urgent reminder of why our national oil and gas program needs immediate reforms.”
The proposed development, if approved by the Bureau of Land Management, will destroy “priority” habitat for greater sage-grouse—that is, habitat identified by the Bureau “as having the highest value to maintaining sustainable [greater sage-grouse] populations.” The project would also destroy agency-identified lands with wilderness characteristics; lands the Bureau itself acknowledges are undisturbed and wilderness-caliber.
“This proposal runs counter to every stated goal and objective of the Biden administration,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It threatens some of our wildest, most scenic public lands, including a national monument, priority habitat for greater sage-grouse, and will exacerbate the climate crisis.”
Making matters worse, the Bureau is bending over backwards to facilitate the project. The drilling and related development will take place on public lands that are subject to a “no surface occupancy” stipulation, which prohibits all surface disturbing activities. When the lessee, Hoodoo Mining & Production Co. LLC, acquired the lease it did so with full knowledge of this restriction. Now, and at the company’s request, the Bureau is proposing to waive that important stipulation and thereby greenlight the industrialization of the area rather than require the company to develop in a less sensitive area.
“Why on God’s green earth is the Bureau even entertaining this drilling project?” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The lessee knew the terms and conditions of its lease and yet now is seeking a special exception to drill right next to Dinosaur National Monument and in priority habitat for greater sage grouse? BLM needs to say “no thanks” and send the company back to the drawing board.”
Notably, the proposed action is identical to one previously approved by the Bureau’s Vernal field office only to be remanded―under the Trump administration―by the Utah State Director for further environmental review (see here). Rather than conduct the required thorough analysis, the Vernal office has merely tried to paper over its previous illegal decision and is poised to once again authorize the industrialization of this wild area.
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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