Suit focuses on oil exploration in Colorado national monument

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002

DENVER (AP) -- Four environmental groups announced Monday they have filed suit to stop vibrating trucks from exploring for oil at the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

The federal suit alleges the Bureau of Land Management is violating the proclamation that established the national monument by allowing exploration in an area that has not previously been leased to energy companies.

The filing also claims that the trucks will needlessly scar the land, which is adjacent to an area surveyed for oil in 1995.

''It's just a gratuitous trashing of the same area,'' said Jay Tutchton, director of the Earthjustice Environmental Law Clinic, which is representing the groups.

Under the project, expected to begin late next week, four large trucks will drive single file through the area in southwest Colorado and periodically stop to lower a vibrating plate to the ground.

Wire strung on the ground will detect the vibrations in the earth and record the data to determine where oil might be found.

The proclamation that created the 164,000-acre preserve of ancient Indian culture near Cortez barred oil and gas exploration where there are no existing leases. Opponents say federal mineral lease maps show that about 20 percent of the land to be surveyed has never been leased.

''This is very intense and it goes right through the heart of an area the monument was supposed to protect,'' Tuchton said.

The Bush administration has listed opening more public land to oil and gas development as a key part of a national energy plan intended to increase domestic production.

Monument Director LouAnn Jacobson said the Bureau of Land Management carefully reviewed the project, which will be overseen by monitors. She said tire tracks and other signs of a similar project on nearby land disappeared after a few years.

Jacobson said she had not been notified of the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

Those filing the lawsuit are the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Wilderness Society, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Oil and Gas Accountability Project.


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