A federal administrative judge last week ruled that conservation groups may challenge a Wyoming natural gas drilling project.

The Wyoming Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation paired to challenge the federal Bureau of Land Management's 2011 decision to approve the Catalina Plans of Development G and I, a 48-well coal-bed methane project proposed by Double Eagle Petroleum. The project is planned inside the Atlantic Rim natural gas project area southwest of Rawlins.

The federal agency approved the plans in June 2011, and the two wildlife groups later appealed, saying the agency didn't properly follow the process for review and approval.

The BLM asked that the appeals be dismissed, but an Interior Board of Land Appeals administrative judge this week ruled the groups can challenge the project based on recreational interest in the land.

The judge has yet to rule whether the agency followed the proper process before approving the plans in 2011.

Reach energy reporter Adam Voge at 307-266-0561, or at adam.voge@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/boom or follow him on Twitter @vogeCST.

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