A U.S. District Court judge put the brakes on a 110,000-acre last-minute sale of federal lands for natural gas drilling in Utah last week, adding another voice to a chorus of concerns over the environmental prudence of the Bush administration's energy policy. The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina, found that the Bureau of Land Management's management plans and environmental analysis for the lands that border Arches National Park and other significant scenic areas failed to adequately study air pollution and other impacts. His decision to stay the highly contested sale, which took place Dec. 19, will allow the court time to fully evaluate a lawsuit brought by environmental organizations challenging the sale.
The ongoing saga in Utah is one of several unfolding around the country as natural gas development accelerates amidst concerns that it may be harming water and air quality. ProPublica has been closely following these developments, and Flyp, an online multimedia magazine, has published an expanded, interactive version of our coverage. It includes exclusive conversations with a former director of the Bureau of Land Management and an industry spokesman, a slideshow, and a graphic explaining the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.