- News &
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2002
Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (801) 486-3161, ext. 16
CONSERVATION GROUPS SUE BLM TO PROTECT UTAH WILDLANDS FROM MASSIVE OIL EXPLORATION PROJECT
and the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Bush administration today to halt the
largest oil and gas exploration project ever approved in Utah. The project, located south of
Dinosaur National Monument, in a remote area known as the Book Cliffs, would encompass
over 3,000 square miles of public lands, including seven areas proposed for wilderness
designation. The project also include 5,000 explosive detonations along 457 miles of seismic
lines, and would take up to two years to complete.
Just weeks after receiving a record-breaking number of public comments -- including highly
critical comments from the EPA -- the BLM found that the project would have “no significant
impact on the environment,” and declined to prepare a comprehensive environmental impact
Veritas DGC Inc., of Houston would conduct the work for its clients, oil companies that it has
refused to identify. Veritas is one of the largest oil exploration companies in the world with over
$ 456 million in revenue in FY 2002. It has operations in 19 countries on six continents.
Steve Bloch, SUWA staff attorney, explained that, “We have never seen this extreme, single-
minded approach to oil development that the BLM is taking now. With orders from Washington
to make oil drilling its ‘No. 1 priority,’ both Utah’s wildlife and magnificent redrock landscapes
are being ruined forever for the chance to produce a few months of oil.”
The BLM granted its approval on Friday, October 4, 2002, and immediately put the decision
into “full force and effect.” The agency also had pre-work meetings with Veritas that day.
However, the BLM would not release its decision record to conservationists unless they made
the day-long trip to the BLM’s Vernal office, and then refused to release additional
correspondence files, all of which are public documents.
"The BLM's actions here -- including its disregard of the comments of thousands of concerned
citizens and its refusal to share documents -- make a mockery of Interior Secretary Norton's
oft-repeated commitment to ‘Consultation, Cooperation, and Communication in the service of
Conservation.’ Here in southern Utah, their actions speak louder than words," said Johanna
Wald of NRDC.
By rushing forward, the BLM also disregarded comments by the EPA which noted that
“the EA does not adequately characterize the direct and indirect effects to wildlife habitat and
soils; the effects of [subsequent off-road vehicle use]; or disclose similar actions, cumulative
effects and reasonably foreseeable development within or adjacent to the Project area.”
The BLM also ignored over 25,000 public comments in opposition to the project.
This is the latest in a series of oil and gas development and exploration projects which have
drawn fire from the public and from other federal agencies:
State Park, the most popular of the Utah State Parks, with spectacular views of
Canyonlands National Park.
Park over the objections of the EPA, U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and conservationists, all of which criticized the BLM’s environmental study of the
proposal. That project is now on hold pending litigation in federal court in Washington D.C.
the Ancients National Monument.
“This is another outrageous example of the Bush administration pushing through energy projects
without considering their impacts on natural resources,” said Susan Daggett, attorney for
Earthjustice who is representing the coalition. “The public should have a voice in this process.
Let’s not sacrifice the public’s interest at the alter of the Bush-Cheney energy plan.”
"We are seeing a repeated and senseless pattern in which the Administration is actually targeting
for exploration the most fragile, important, and scenic lands," said Pam Eaton, regional director
of the Wilderness Society's Four Corners States Office. "There is a place for oil and gas
development activities on public lands, but it's absurd for BLM to simply ignore critical values
such as wilderness and impacts to wildlife and vegetation."