Conservation Groups Sue Zinke, BLM Over Oil And Gas Leases near Dinosaur National Monument

<p>(AP Photo/Molly Riley)</p>
<p>Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at the Interior Department in Washington in March 2017.</p>
Photo: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (AP Photo)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at the Interior Department in Washington in March 2017.

Rocky Mountain Wild, National Parks Conservation Association and two other conservation groups have sued the Trump administration to stop new oil and gas leases near Dinosaur National Monument.

At issue is land in northwestern Colorado and eastern Utah spanning about 115,000 acres. The Bureau of Land Management opened up more than 100 oil and gas leases there in December and June to energy companies.

The lawsuit claims that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the BLM didn’t properly assess the environmental impact of drilling on the land, and how "the air pollution from developing the leases will adversely impact public health, the environment, and treasured public lands like Dinosaur National Monument.

More specifically, the lawsuit says that the surrounding Uinta Basin struggles with high ozone levels due to emissions from oil and gas development.

"Elevated pollution levels impair visibility at Dinosaur National Monument, negatively impacting the experience of the more than 300,000 annual visitors who come to admire the Monument’s expansive views and dark night skies. Ozone pollution also harms Dinosaur National Monument’s ecosystems by stunting vegetation growth," the lawsuit says.

“Despite the impacts of ozone pollution on public health and the environment, including Dinosaur National Monument, BLM has continued to lease thousands of acres for oil and gas development in the Uinta Basin."

The lawsuit, filed in Denver district court, seeks to invalidate the leases.

A spokesperson for the BLM said the agency is reviewing the decision and what it means for oil and gas leasing.