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Suit Seeks to Halt U.S. Oil Search at Colo. Monument

August 20, 2002|From Associated Press

DENVER — Four environmental groups announced Monday that 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 next 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.

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

Under the project, expected to begin next week, four trucks will drive through the area and periodically stop to lower a vibrating plate to the ground to help determine where oil might be found.

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

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

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