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SUWA Files Suit to Halt Seismic Activity
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance today asked a federal judge to stop a multinational oil and gas exploration company from beginning environmentally damaging seismic activity on proposed wilderness near Canyonlands National Park. SUWA is seeking a preliminary injunction following a decision last week by the Bureau of Land Management that gave Veritas DGC Land Inc. permission to crisscross scenic and pristine desert countryside in search of underground oil reserves.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is asking the court to temporarily halt the company's plan to run 50,000-pound "thumper" trucks across fragile desert soil while the court reviews an environmental study the BLM used to grant the Veritas plan. The company has already surveyed the area, a 36-square-mile swatch of redrock and sagebrush desert near Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park. Veritas thumper trucks have been given the go-ahead to rumble over the area beginning September 1. A hearing on SUWA's motion for a preliminary injunction will likely occur before Veritas' September start date.
"If we don't immediately slow this process down, sensitive natural resources in one of Utah's most important scenic corridors will be lost forever," said SUWA attorney Steve Bloch. "But we also need to change the sycophantic culture of Utah BLM which consistently places the profits of the oil industry above the long-term health of America's public lands. Right now our remaining wild places are systematically being destroyed one application at a time."
The motion for a preliminary injunction is part of a formal lawsuit also filed today. In the suit, SUWA claims that BLM State Director Sally Wisely, Moab Field Office Director Maggie Wyatt and the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it failed to consider reasonable and less impactful alternatives to the Veritas thumper truck proposal.
The suit contends that the thumper truck method approved by the BLM will destroy crypto-biotic soils, disrupt sensitive species in the area and will damage the tourism-based economy of the Moab.
"In essence, the BLM tinkered around the edges of the Veritas proposal, but still failed to take into account the impacts this invasive method of seismic exploration can have on the environment and on the area's economy," Bloch said. "There are other ways to get the information Veritas is looking for without the wholesale destruction of a pristine natural resource. Our public land managers ought to vigorously demand these alternatives. Instead, they have a compunction to roll over for big oil and gas and its short-term destructive whims."