Science, Tech & Environment

Federal Court halts drilling near parks

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Arches National Park in Utah

On day one President Obama signed an order that alters disclosure rules, giving the public the right to know in all but the most the sensitive government proceedings and documents. This marks a sharp break with the Bush White House in procedures that will affect public health and environmental protection.

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Anticipating the change of the presidential guard, a federal judge blocked a controversial last minute move by the Bush administration allowing drilling for oil and natural gas in Utah and Colorado, close to national parks. Rocky Barker, an environmental reporter for the Idaho Statesman, joins "The Takeaway" for an update.

The judge said that the bureau of land management didn't do a proper environmental analysis, and issued a restraining order on the sale of oil and gas leases near several national parks. Barker explains: "What was missing was they had not done an analysis, according to the judge, of the potential air pollution of the national parks and national monuments in the area, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.

"There were about 149,000 acres affected originally. But the BLM when they did this, forgot to talk to the National Park Service, and so they had to go back, consult with them, and they took it down to about 110,000 acres. About three million acres would have been affected from a scenic standpoint."

According to Barker, the more senstive areas were made available for lease during the Bush Administration: "For the last eight years, particularly the first four years, they were so aggressive, they put oil and gas wells in places that are particularly important habitat for sage grouse and other desert species. In fact, about the same amount of land was leased during the Bush years as was leased during the Clinton years, except during the Bush years it was a lot of the more sensitive lands that the Clintons and clearly the Obama administration are not going to approve."

Read entire transcript.

Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth.