Bush admin changed rule to facilitate drilling under parks, suit charges

Without the required public input, the Bush administration changed a federal rule, making it easier for oil and gas companies to drill for privately owned minerals beneath national parks, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by the Sierra Club. At issue is “directional drilling,” whereby oil and gas outfits set up outside parks and drill laterally to access resources beneath them. The suit alleges that the Bush administration removed the requirement for companies to complete an environmental impact assessment, without the lawfully required period of public comment. It names National Park Service Director Fran Mainella and Interior Secretary Gale Norton, claiming that they bowed to pressure from Houston-based Davis Brothers Inc., a mining firm that threatened to sue unless barriers were removed to its access to minerals under Big Thicket National Preserve in east Texas.