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Methane well
05.30.03
Science and Health:
Stripping the West
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Update NOW reported in March 2002 that our own thirst for fossil fuels could contribute to future water shortages. In state after state, land is increasingly being opened up to large-scale drilling for oil and gas. As reported in "Revolving Door," the U.S. Department of the Interior recently approved the largest natural gas project on federal land ever on the rolling ranch land of Montana and Wyoming's Powder River Basin. The coalbed methane industry will be permitted to drill 77,000 methane wells and lay 30,000 miles of pipeline. Over a trillion gallons of water would be pumped from an underground aquifer and dumped on the ground.

In May of 2003, a coalition of ranchers, landowners, and environmental groups filed three separate lawsuits to stop coalbed methane development in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. The groups charge that the impact of this drilling would severely drain the aquifer and leave large swaths of land unusable due to the high salinity of the discharged water. In addition, their main legal argument is that the Bureau of Land Management failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of federal decisions and consider alternative approaches. So far, development is proceeding as planned.

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