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Federal judge supports CBM development in Wyoming

World Coal,

A federal judge in Washington has ruled against environmental groups that challenged the US Interior Department’s plan to open the Fortification Creek area in northeastern Wyoming to coalbed methane (CBM) development.

Judge Barbara Rothstein released a 42-page ruling against the national Wildlife Federation and two Wyoming groups: the Powder River Basin Resource Council and the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

The groups filed their lawsuit in 2012, claiming that the US Bureau of Land Management had improperly analysed how opening the area to CBM development would affect the local elk herd.

However, Rothstein ruled that the Bureau had properly analysed the cumulative effects of the 100 000 acre Fortification Creek planning area. She rejected claims the agency had failed to do an adequate job of considering the effects of development on the elk and on water and soil resources.

In a retort to environmental activists, Rothstein wrote: “Several of the plaintiffs’ contentions regarding analysis of cumulative impacts on the elk herd are clearly not supported by the record.”

The state of Wyoming had intervened in the lawsuit to support the federal government’s drilling plans.

Renny MacKay, spokesman for Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, said that the state was pleased with Rothstein’s ruling. "Wyoming supported the Bureau of Land Management decision because it balances protection of elk and elk habitat while facilitating natural gas production beneficial to Wyoming and its economy," MacKay said in a prepared statement. "We are pleased with this outcome."

Production of CBM in Wyoming has seen a decline over recent years. Figures from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission show production peaked in 2009 at over 580 million ft3 and stood at just over 300 million ft3 in 2013.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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