Judge rules US not in compliance with federal law on drilling plan

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the U.S. government's study of drilling projects in Colorado wasn't in compliance with federal law and ordered the government to do further analysis.

U.S District Judge Lewis Babcock agreed with conservation groups that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service were not in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in their analysis of a drilling project called the Bull Mountain Master Development Plan and the adjacent 25-well project.

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Babcock said the agencies failed to comply with NEPA "by not taking a hard look at the reasonably foreseeable indirect impacts of oil and gas" for the Western Colorado drilling plans. He also said the government didn't do enough of an analysis on the cumulative impacts of the drilling projects on the local mule deer and elk populations.

Babcock ordered the government to work with the conservation groups and "attempt in good faith to reach an agreement" to address the areas where the agencies aren't in compliance with NEPA.

The environmental groups involved in the lawsuit praised the judge's ruling.

Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community, one of the groups, in a statement called the ruling "an important win."

"This is an important win for our public lands, the climate and the tenacity of the North Fork Valley community. Requiring the Bureau of Land Management to clearly and properly analyze all potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of this large-scale industrial oil and gas development project is absolutely critical to protecting the rare and irreplaceable ecosystem of the North Fork Valley and all those who rely on it,” Léger said.