In a much-anticipated decision, the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management announced yesterday that it would approve the development of as many as 51,000 coalbed methane wells in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin. Although the BLM also called for a team of government representatives to monitor the air- and water-quality effects of the wells, environmentalists were disappointed by the decision, which paves the way for the largest-ever oil and gas development approved on federal lands. Under the decision, which lifted a 34-month moratorium on coalbed methane mining, companies can begin applying for drilling permits right away. However, some environmental organizations, including the Wyoming Outdoor Council, were considering suing to block the plan.
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