For Immediate Release, August 7, 2020
Kelly Fuller, Western Watersheds Project, (928) 322-8449,
Cheyenne, Wyo.― Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved plans for a project authorizing 4,250 oil and gas wells in central Wyoming, risking great harm to greater sage-grouse and other birds, drinking water, and Class I waters in the Wind River that it is illegal to pollute.
“The project’s supporters shouldn’t pop champagne corks yet,” said Kelly Fuller, Energy and Mining Campaign Director at Western Watersheds Project. “BLM approved the Moneta Divide Project today, but it’s far from a done deal.”
“First, the BLM’s weak approval decision isn’t strong enough to ensure that Class I waters in the Wind River will not be illegally degraded,” said Fuller. “It allows the Moneta Divide Project to operate before the project’s treated water discharge pipeline is constructed and doesn’t set a deadline for putting that pipeline into operation. The treated water discharge pipeline is the BLM’s preferred method of water disposal, but there is no guarantee that it will ever be built at all.”
“Second, Bureau of Land Management regulations require a legitimate BLM Director to resolve protests on big projects like Moneta Divide, but the BLM doesn’t have one,” said Fuller. “Because BLM doesn’t have a legitimate Director, there is a deep shadow on the legality of the BLM’s approval of the Moneta Divide Project. Conservation groups and the Governor of Montana sued separately earlier this year because William Perry Pendley cannot legally play the role of the BLM’s Director.”
The Moneta Divide Project also faces uncertainty because today’s approval does not give the companies permission to start construction of wells, access roads and other supporting infrastructure. BLM postponed analyzing the project’s site-specific environmental impacts, and Aethon and Burlington Resources must still apply to the BLM for approval of individual components.
“It’s far from clear which rules will apply when Aethon and Burlington want to start drilling wells and building access roads, power lines, and pipelines,” said Fuller. “The conservation community is fighting back against the Trump Administration’s spree of approving rule changes illegally, and several lawsuits against greater sage-grouse, migratory birds, and National Environmental Policy Act rule changes are under way. Each affects the Moneta Divide project.”
Western Watersheds Project is currently a co-plaintiff in lawsuits challenging BLM’s sage-grouse plans, William Perry Pendley’s legitimacy as BLM Director, and the Council on Environmental Quality’s revised National Environmental Policy Act regulations.
Western Watersheds Project protects and restores western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy.