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WASHINGTON -- Three Wyoming environmental groups have filed
suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alleging the agency
failed to adequately study the effects of small reservoirs built by
coal bed methane companies.
The suit claims that the Corps' general permit allowing drillers
to construct in-channel reservoirs and ponds is leading to
groundwater and stream contamination.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Powder River Basin Resource
Council and Biodiversity Associates have filed suit in Washington,
The groups say the agency should have prepared a detailed study of
the environmental effects of the reservoirs and allowed the public to
comment before issuing the permit.
The reservoirs were built to temporarily retain water discharged
from methane wells.
The environmentalists said the reservoirs prevent natural run-off
from reaching downstream users and allow possibly polluted water from
wells to mix with and taint run-off. In addition, the groups said,
the ponds can leak contaminants into groundwater.
``By issuing a general permit, the Corps of Engineers is treating
these reservoirs like stock watering ponds,'' said Steve Jones, of
the outdoor council. ``But they contain contaminated water from coal
bed methane wells and are more like wastewater treatment ponds than
Tom Johnson of the Corps office in Cheyenne, an author of the
permit, was unavailable for comment.
Jill Morrison, of the resource council, said the ponds, which are
less than one-tenth of an acre, can potentially contaminate aquifers
and harm vegetation downstream.
Seven years ago, 110 wells were tapping methane trapped in
Wyoming's coal seams.
Since then, as a result of cheaper drilling techniques and higher
natural gas prices, more than 12,000 wells have been drilled. Most
are in northeast Wyoming's Powder River Basin. Another 8,000 have
been permitted for drilling.
Coal bed methane provides nearly 8 percent of the nation's reserve
of natural gas, more than quadrupling its share since 1989.
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