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Utah green groups sue over oil drilling

Published November 28, 2013 7:33 pm

Environment • Organizations want to protect wetlands near Green River.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah environmental groups have asked a federal court to halt drilling in six oil wells near the Green River.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and The Wilderness Society challenged the BLM's decision to permit Denver-based Gasco Production Co. to drill wells in the Pariette Draw region in Uintah County.

The environmental groups already are challenging a project by Gasco to develop nearly 1,300 wells around the same area.

The BLM approved Gasco's project in November 2012; according to reports released by Gasco earlier this year, drilling was delayed as the company addressed stipulations to protect burrowing owls and golden eagles at or near the well sites.

The conservation organizations say the wells never should have been approved in the first place.

"The Pariette Wetlands ... are remarkable oases surrounded by high desert steppe," the suit states. "These wetlands are rich in wildlife and vegetation."

The wetlands support a waterfowl management area, the lawsuit notes. The environmental groups claim the drilling also would contribute to already high air pollution levels and possible water pollution.

The environmental groups are asking that the court order void the BLM permits for the project and order an injunction against drilling at the well sites.

Representatives from SUWA, The Wilderness Society, the BLM and Gasco could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

ealberty@sltrib.com