by Christine Canaly
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) and Citizens for San Luis Valley Water Protection Coalition (CSLV/WPC) had filed a Preliminary Injunction (PI) to ensure that no ground-disturbing activity occur until the NEPA lawsuit against Lexam is resolved.
Although a ruling on the PI by Judge Walker has not yet occurred, Lexam recently made the following statement in a recent Denver Post article:
August 2, 2009—“ALAMOSA ¬ Toronto-based Lexam Explorations is holding off for now on its plans to explore for natural gas on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, even though an agreement that prohibited ground- disturbing activity on the land has expired.
Lexam agreed in February not to drill until August, but company vice president Ian Ball said Friday that Lexam will wait until a federal judge rules on environmental groups’ request for a preliminary injunction on drilling.
Ball said Lexam would not start drilling because of the risk that a ruling for an injunction could stop the company’s work.”
The PI request was filed last December to prevent oil and gas exploration from moving forward until a final ruling could be reached on litigation that is pending from May 2007, regarding implementation and scope of the NEPA (public) process. District Court granted permission earlier this year to continue moving forward with that litigation.
Judge Miller declared from the bench in May that he hoped to make a decision on the PI before August 1. Without a PI decision in place that would clearly deny Lexam access to the refuge, as of August 1, Lexam does have the legal right to proceed with oil and gas exploration, even though other litigation is still pending. Lexam has chosen not to proceed at this time, waiting for Judge Walker’s PI decision.
The public involvement in the question of how the USFWS will manage the Baca Wildlife Refuge is far from over. Ultimately, the purchase and permanent retirement of the Mineral Rights under this unique public lands complex (Great Sand Dunes NP, Baca Wildlife Refuge and Baca Mountain Tract) is the most sensible long term solution.
Chris Canaly is Director of San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) and Co-Chair of the Citizens for SLV Water Protection Coalition (WPC).