Conservationists have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over oil and gas permits issued on federal land in Navajo and Apache counties. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, they say officials failed to conduct proper environmental review.
The lawsuit filed by three groups alleges the Bureau of Land Management violated multiple federal laws when it approved leases on about 4,200 acres near Holbrook last year. A new administration policy instructs the agency not to conduct public comment or environmental analysis before land is leased. But conservationists say that threatens endangered animal habitat and the local watershed, including the Coconino Aquifer and Petrified Forest National Park.
"The law is very clear in saying that federal agencies must undertake as much review as early and as soon as they can and in this case that’s before rather than after the leases are issued," says Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that filed suit.
The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment on the lawsuit, but says any drilling that’s proposed will still eventually require environmental analysis.
Two companies hold leases on the BLM parcels, and also plan helium exploration there. In addition, they’ve leased tens of thousands of acres of state land in the Little Colorado River Valley.