An Interior Department appeals board has upheld its earlier ruling that three of the leases for a coal bed methane (CBM) drilling project in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin were issued without adequate environmental review. Environmentalists hope the decision will help block pending leases for such drilling on millions of acres throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Controversy over the Powder River Basin project — the largest natural-gas proposal ever approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — began in 2000, when the Wyoming Outdoors Council contested leases that gave the company Pennaco the right to apply for drilling permits. In April, the appeals board ruled for the first time that the lease sale was illegal; Pennaco and others then sued the BLM, and the BLM asked the appeals board to reconsider its decision. Now that the board has upheld that decision, the BLM may have to ask Interior Secretary Gale Norton to override the board’s decision — which she may well do, given that drilling is a central component of President Bush’s energy plan.