Industry opposed to gas ruling
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Secretary of Interior Gale Norton is considered unlikely to overrule a department ruling the gas industry is opposing.

The ruling by the Interior Board of Land Appeals invalidated three coalbed methane drilling leases on 2,500 acres. Environmentalists feel the decision has a wider precedent on gas development in the entire West.

Drilling is largely occurring in Colorado and New Mexico. Expansions in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana are being eyed where a coalition of environmentalists, ranchers and farmers are raising concerns in Montana.

The Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Montana have developed a plan to address drilling in the region. Tribes are included under federal standards if they choose to allow development.

Public comments are being accepted until May 15 because of concerns raised by the EPA. According to a Washington Post report, Interior Deputy Secretary opposed the delay and tried to suppress a negative letter regarding the environmental impact statement.

A meeting was held in Casper, Wyoming, yesterday to discuss some of the issues raised by the EPA. A regional official said the Interior could be sued for the EIS rated "environmentally unsatisfactory."

Get the Story:
Ruling Could Delay Wyo. Gas Exploration (The Washington Post 5/1)
Agencies split on methane study (The Casper Star-Tribune 5/1)

Relevant Links:
Montana DEQ Coal Bed Methane Plan -
Coalbed Methane, Region 8 -

Related Stories:
Coalbed methane leases ruled illegal(4/30)
Griles accused of intimidation (4/25)
Coalbed methane drilling pushed (4/5)
Tribes host coalbed methane meetings (4/4)
Halt in methane drilling sought (2/21)
Coal methane plan released (2/20)
EPA meets with tribes on drilling (2/14)
Mont. tribe pushing water standards (1/23)
Mont. tribe developing water standards (12/20)
Methane standards to affect tribes (9/26)