A U.S. District Court judge blocked a plan authorized by federal agencies for 35 fracked gas wells across 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land between Gunnison and the Grand Mesa, passing a victory to environmental organizations suing the administration for failing to take climate change into account in authorizing new drilling.
U.S. District for Colorado Judge Marcia Krieger evacuated last approvals by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, enabling Gunnison Energy LLC to drill and frack holes as part of the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan. Krieger believed that Gunnison Energy had already drilled one well under the plan. The plan enabled 35 wells to be drilled from five pads scattered across the area.
“Based on the court’s ruling, the agency must start over if they’re going to approve fossil fuel development in the area,” announced Peter Hart, an attorney with Wilderness Workshop and a part of the union that had sued to obstruct the drilling plan.
“This will give BLM a chance to reconsider whether this is the right decision in the first place, and contemplate alternatives that don’t destroy the headwaters of the North Fork, pristine roadless areas, and our climate,” Hart announced.
“By the agencies’ admission, the plan should never have been approved in the first place . . . ,” Krieger wrote. “In this court’s view, allowing the agency the opportunity to fix the error is more important than forcing the public to abide by a decision that the agency concedes was improper.”