Judge dismisses Sierra Club lawsuit

April 18, 2003

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas- A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club that was intended to stop drilling on the Padre Island National Seashore.

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the federal government in April 2002, seeking to halt heavy truck traffic involved in the drilling. The group said it posed an imminent threat to the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles.

U.S. District Judge John Rainey ruled that the defendants were taking the appropriate steps to protect the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said.

"If this indeed is the end to this lawsuit, then I look forward to working with the Sierra Club to do all we can to protect the fragile ecosystem along the coast," Patterson said.

Sierra Club spokesman Fred Richardson said the group was disappointed with the court ruling "but we think there is a good possibility for a successful appeal."

Defendants in the lawsuit included the Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the National Parks Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas General Land Office and drilling company BNP Petroleum Corp.

The Sierra Club had amended its lawsuit in December after the National Park Service approved two new wells on the national seashore.

BNP uses the beach as a road to reach wells. The Sierra Club had said the Park Service violated the Endangered Species Act by ignoring the threat that BNP's trucks pose to turtles, which come ashore to nest.

BNP and Interior Department officials have said there is nothing new about gas drilling on Padre Island. A BNP spokesman has said there have been more than 70 permits issued to drill for oil and gas on the island, where drilling has taken place continuously since the 1950s.

Officials with the national seashore have said they found the drilling would have a minimal impact on the wildlife, the Corpus Christi Caller times has reported.

"They relied on their opinion, their intuition and their gut," Richardson said. "What we were trying to do is force the National Park Service to use good science in making a determination that the drilling could go forward."

BNP did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press Friday. The Department of Interior did not immediately comment.

The 68-mile long national seashore is the longest natural barrier island in the world and is home to 13 endangered or threatened species, including the Kemp's ridley, loggerhead, green, and hawksbill sea turtles.


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