Billings, MT – The Bureau of Land Management is working on a new environmental study of coal bed methane production in southern Montana. And a federal magistrate is now considering whether the agency should halt new drilling in the meantime. Last month, US Magistrate Richard Anderson said a BLM study of the potential environmental effects failed to analyze a phased-development alternative. He held a hearing Tuesday in Billings to determine what, if any, relief should be granted in lawsuits brought by the Northern Plains Resource Council and Northern Cheyenne Indian tribe. Both have asked that new drilling be halted until further study is completed. Industry representatives testified that delays in development would be costly and could cause gas to be drained by existing wells. Anderson did not immediately rule.