CARBONDALE, Colo. (AP) – Five Colorado conservation groups are criticizing a proposed settlement with two natural gas companies accused of rigging auctions of four gas leases on federal land.

The groups including Western Colorado Congress and Wilderness Workshop say the U.S. Department of Justice is letting the companies off with a “wrist slap.”

Gunnison Energy Corp. and SG Interests were accused of agreeing in 2005 not to compete against each other in the auctions. Federal prosecutors said in February that each company agreed to pay $275,000 to settle the claims. The companies aren’t admitting guilt. The public was given 60 days to comment on the settlement before a judge decides whether to approve it.

The conservation groups want the companies to pay more in damages, face criminal charges and lose the leases.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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