Judge says further study needed on North Fork Valley oil and gas lease project

DENVER (AP) — A judge says the U.S. government’s environmental analysis of a drilling plan for Colorado’s North Fork Valley needs more work.

U.S District Judge Lewis Babcock’s ruling Wednesday involves government agencies’ environmental analysis of the Bull Mountain project and an adjacent project that would drill about 175 gas wells northeast of Paonia, near McClure Pass.

The judge agreed with conservation groups that the government fell short in studying the indirect impacts of projects’ oil and gas production.

He also ruled that the government didn’t look closely enough at the cumulative effect of drilling on the area’s mule deer and elk populations.

Among the groups filing the January 2018 lawsuit challenging the 146-well Bull Mountain Master Development Plan and an adjacent 25-well project was the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop.

“For too long, agencies have ignored their obligation to consider and disclose the climate-related impacts of burning oil and gas they lease on our public lands,” said Peter Hart, staff attorney for the organization.

“A slew of recent cases confirm that the law requires more,” Hart said in a press release. “Public land managers must consider how their management of fossil fuels will affect our climate, and that information must be disclosed to the public prior to approving more development.”

Babcock deferred a final ruling on the case, and instead ordered the sides to get together and try to reach an agreement on how to fix the shortfalls.

(Glenwood Springs Post Independent staff contributed to this report.)

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