Judge Says NPS Dropped the Ball on Drilling Beneath Big Thicket
Need more evidence that this administration sees no hallowed ground when it comes to drilling for oil and natural gas? Then consider the following story about the National Park Service's decision to allow companies to drill for fossil fuels beneath Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas.
It seems that between 1999 and 2004 the Park Service approved 19 wells to be drilled from locations outside Big Thicket into the earth beneath the preserve's surface. The agency envisions extending another 29 wells in the next two decades.
Making this possible, you see, is that while the Park Service owns the surface rights, it does not own the mineral rights. And it's estimated that those mineral rights contain 1.21 million barrels of oil and more than 70 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
To make a long story short, environmentalists took the park to court over the drilling, saying Big Thicket officials didn't properly follow the National Environmental Policy Act when determining whether it should lease the drilling rights to those energy resources.
While U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the park did indeed follow NEPA guidelines in considering the lease requests, he also determined that the preserve's decision that the drilling activities "would not result in impairment of park resources and values ... or a significant impact on the human environment ... are not supported ..."
As a result, Judge Bates directed the Park Service to conduct more environmental studies. You can find the details of this story here.