Interior Dept stops fast-track approval for drilling

Salt Lake City, UT – Conservationists are praising the Interior Department's move to stop fast-track approvals for drilling across the Rocky Mountains.

The settlement came in response to a 2008 lawsuit filed in Salt Lake City that challenged the Bush administration's interpretation of a law allowing federal land managers to issue drilling permits without a full environmental review. Most of the fast-tracked projects were approved in Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah from 2006 to 2008.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which was among the groups that sued, says the settlement means "a thoughtful approach to development."

An oil industry group criticized the settlement and complained it was shut out of negotiations.

The announcement came just hours before President Barack Obama said his administration will open offshore oil and gas reserves to development.