Court blocks exploration near Utah's Arches National Park

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Dec. 23 -- A Washington, DC, federal court temporarily blocked exploration on public land bordering Utah's Arches National Park pending an environmental review by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management.

Four environmental organizations filed suit to stop the project in late September in the District of Columbia. The groups were the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, and the Sierra Club.

BLM had approved a request by seismic contractor Western GECO to conduct a seismic survey for the Dome Plateau area. Environmentalists argued the BLM's Moab, Utah, office should have first required an environmental impact statement (OGJ, Mar. 18, 2002, p. 50).

The court in late October issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking Western GECO—a joint venture of Baker Hughes Inc. and Schlumberger Ltd.

Late on Dec. 20, the court agreed with environmental groups that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act.

"This decision sends a strong message to the (President George W.) Bush administration: You have to obey the law," SUWA attorney Stephen Bloch said in a news release Monday.

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