By: Amanda Pampuro, Courthouse News
September 28, 2018
Four environmental groups sued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday to protect the two-state Dinosaur National Monument from increased air pollution from oil and gas drilling.
Established in 1915, the Dinosaur National Monument encompasses 200,000 acres from Rio Blanco County in northwest Colorado to northeast Utah counties Duchesne and Uintah. An estimated 300,000 people a year visit the park’s 1,500 fossils exposed on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall, spending around $18 million in local economies.
According to lead plaintiff Rocky Mountain Wild, the Uinta Basin already “suffers from unhealthy ozone levels due to emissions from extensive oil and gas development.” But in December 2017 and June this year the Bureau of Land Management approved an additional 121 oil and gas leases on 117,720 acres, including some parcels within 3 miles of the monument.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has designated the Uinta Basin “an ozone nonattainment area.” The environmental groups consider the obvious culprit the 11,000 producing wells leased across Rio Blanco and the Uinta Basin.
Plaintiffs include the National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. Their lead counsel is Stuart Gillespie with Earthjustice in Denver.
“Oil and gas developers accidentally leaking or intentionally venting methane into the air contributes to climate change,” according to the 45-page lawsuit. “Other hydrocarbons vented and leaked by oil and gas development are hazardous air pollutants that are toxic to humans, including known carcinogens like benzene.”
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