Lawsuit challenges Trump Administration for leasing helium drilling in Utah wilderness

Local News

Bowknot Bend, Labyrinth Canyon (lease area located at upper right). Photo: Pete McBride/EcoFlight

WASHINGTON, D.C (ABC4 News) – The Bureau of Land Management is currently under fire following a heated lawsuit in regards to the alleged illegal leasing of 1,400 acres for helium extraction.

Monday, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, and Living Rivers filed suit in federal district court challenging the Trump Administration for leasing 1,400 acres for helium drilling in Utah wilderness.

It is reported the helium extraction is taking place within the newly designated Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness in southeastern Utah. 

“The Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness includes one of the country’s most iconic and world-renowned stretches of river canyon. This national treasure is bounded on the east by the Green River and on the south by Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 secured its permanent protection as wilderness,” the press release reads.

The lawsuit says the Bureau violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to take a hard look at the potential climate harms from the fracking project and failing to provide a reasoned basis for offering this land for leasing in the first place.

“This proposal is the paragon of the Trump administration’s ‘going out of business’ assault on the nation’s public lands, plain and simple,” shares Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This project would needlessly and permanently tarnish one of the Bureau of Land Management’s crown jewels: the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness.”

Friday afternoon, the conservation groups filed a motion with the court seeking an emergency injunction to block the Bureau’s approval of the project until the merits of the lawsuit can be decided.

The proposed helium operation will industrialize one of the most remote areas of southeastern Utah’s red rock country. If the plan is approved, Twin Bridges will drill up to seven wells, permanently disturbing 43 acres in this remote and austere landscape and forever diminishing the unique wilderness values found in the area. The project will also involve road grading, construction of three separate pipelines, construction of a 10-acre processing facility, and increased vehicle traffic.

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