By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The coal-bed-methane (CBM) drilling program in northeastern Wyoming is one of the projects that came out of the energy-industry socials Dick Cheney hosted shortly after taking office. Under Griles’ guidance, Interior is planning 51,000 methane wells, thousands of miles of access roads and 30,000 miles of pipeline in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The Powder River CBM play is the biggest natural-gas project ever undertaken on lands where the federal government owns the mineral rights. It will produce a year’s worth of gas and enough water to turn the state of Rhode Island into a foot-deep lake — a blessing in arid Wyoming if the water weren’t so saline that it destroys pasturelands.
As the Interior Department cleared the way for drilling, the EPA came to the rescue. A six-volume, 900-page draft environmental-impact statement that cost the agency more than $1 million to complete gave the project the lowest possible environmental rating. It warned that CBM water will so increase the salinity of the Bell Fourche and Tongue rivers that they will no longer be suitable for agriculture.
Griles went after the EPA as he did Fish & Wildlife 13 years earlier. He wrote Assistant EPA Director Linda Fisher and warned her that her regional director was issuing a report that could put the methane program at risk. In Dick Cheney’s home state there is no congressional delegation like the one that stopped Griles in California. (In fact, the state’s two U.S. senators and one representative support the drilling program.) This time around, Griles easily beat a federal agency into submission. Even after The New York Times found that drilling now has coal-bed methane “bubbling like champagne” from the Belle Fourche River. And the program is just beginning.
Last year, the enviro watchdogs at Friends of the Earth did an FOIA request for Griles’ daily calendars and found him to be less than fastidious in avoiding meetings with his former clients. Yet Griles has survived an in-house ethics investigation and will probably survive Senator Joe Lieberman’s request for a congressional investigation into conflicts of interest.
After all, J. Steven Griles is a player. He’s already met with Bush twice to discuss offshore drilling. Friends of the Earth’s Kristen Sykes also discovered that Griles has attended 10 meetings regarding oil and gas leases off the coast of California. He’s whipped Wyoming into submission. He appears to be preparing to do the same to California.
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