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WildEarth Guardians Stops Plans to Open up Southeastern Montana to Fracking

Date
January 28, 2019
Contact
Becca Fischer, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy
Denver – The Tongue River Valley of southeastern Montana received a reprieve from industry plans to open up the iconic area to industrial-scale fracking. In an order issued today, the Interior Board of Land Appeals agreed with WildEarth Guardians and set aside a decision by the Bureau of Land Management approving two permits to drill and frack for oil.

“BLM was trying have its cake and eat it too by admitting its environmental analysis was flawed but not actually cancelling its decision to approve these wells.” said Rebecca Fischer, Climate and Energy Program Attorney for Guardians and the attorney on the case. “Thankfully the Board saw through this deception and officially invalidated the agency’s decision to open up this sensitive area to fracking.”

The oil and gas industry began exploring ways to use industrial-scale fracking in the Tongue River in fall of 2016 when an oil and gas company named Alta Vista Oil Corporation quietly applied for a permit to drill an exploratory well. Guardians discovered a large flare from the exploratory well on a trip in September 2017.

After investigating the issue, Guardians discovered plans for four more Alta Vista wells. Despite the fact that all of the proposed wells would use drill down to a depth of approximately 8,000 feet and use fracking to extract any oil, the Bureau of Land Management failed to analyze the environmental impacts of fracking in any of the environmental analyses accompanying the decisions.

“The Tongue River Valley is a quiet, mostly untouched area on the edge of the Great Plains” said Fischer. “Allowing fracking would completely transform the landscape and threaten our climate, clean air, and clean water. The Bureau of Land Management wanted to ignore this reality, but thankfully we caught them before it was too late.”

Guardians filed a notice appeal of two of the Alta Vista wells on April 19, 2018. Guardians filed a statement of reasons outlining its opposition on July 2, 2018.

The agency requested that the Board voluntarily remand the issue on October 17, 2018. In communications following this motion, the agency made clear that it did not plan to rescind its underlying decision approving the project during the new environmental review period.

The Board’s January 28, 2019 decision sets aside the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of two wells and sends the permits back to the agency for further review.