In a triumph for environmentalists, a federal panel has reversed a U.S. Bureau of Land Management decision to grant three coal-bed-methane (CBM) mining leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The Interior Department’s Board of Land Appeals determined that the BLM granted the leases based on a 1985 resource management plan that addressed the potential impacts of conventional oil and gas drilling but not of CBM. The panel put a halt to the leases and ordered the agency to further study the environmental impact of CBM development. The Wyoming Outdoor Council and the Powder River Basin Resource Council challenged 49 mining leases, but the panel only sided with the council on three of the challenges. Still, the groups say the decision is enormously significant, because energy companies would like to develop much of the West for CBM mining, but none of the management plans in the area looks specifically at the environmental impact of the practice.

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