On April 30, a US District Judge ruled against a request for a preliminary injunction against the US Forest Service’s and Bureau of Land Management’s approval of construction of the Bull Mountain Pipeline.
The pipeline would connect gasfields in the North Fork Valley (north of Paonia) with a main pipeline in the Interstate 70 corridor. It includes an eight-mile stretch through three separate national forest roadless areas.
Because bulldozers could start rolling within days to clear the pipeline route, WCC and a coalition of conservation groups have filed an appeal to the judge’s decision with the Tenth Circuit Court, again requesting a preliminary injunction. Without the injunction, the pipeline route could be cleared while WCC and its allies wait for the judge to decide on our lawsuit, doing irreparable harm to the roadless areas.
Earthjustice filed our lawsuit in federal district court on March 5 challenging the Forest Service and BLM on their approval of this 25-mile natural gas pipeline. The lawsuit argues that the agencies’ approval violates the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule by allowing a de facto road to be built through three national forest roadless areas. It also asserts that the agencies failed to consider the impacts of hundreds of additional gas wells that would be made possible by the new pipeline capacity.
On April 17th our Earthjustice lawyer, Robin Cooley, argued our request for a preliminary injunction before U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn in Denver. In denying our request, Blackburn said that in order to win an injunction, we must show that we are likely to win our overall lawsuit. He concluded that our case was not strong enough to merit the injunction.
Western Slope Environmental Resource Council (a WCC affiliate serving Delta County and western Gunnison County) and High Country Citizens Alliance (based in Crested Butte and covering Gunnison County) are the local citizens’ groups joining with WCC in the lawsuit.
Pitkin County also joined the lawsuit as officials there fear construction of the pipeline could lead to the drilling of gas wells in the western part of the county near Carbondale. No new wells have been drilled in the county over the last few years, but thousands of acres of public land have been leased to gas companies.