From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 33 - November 10, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Winter drilling draws few

by Cat Urbigkit

The Bureau of Land Managementís public open houses dealing with the natural gas operatorsí proposal for year-round access to the Pinedale Anticline drew few members of the public this week.

A public session in Jackson Monday, Nov. 7, drew about five people, while the session in Marbleton drew only one member of the public.

Sublette County Commission Chair Betty Fear attended the Marbleton session to express the commissionís support for the proposal.

The BLM is currently in the public-scoping phase for preparation of the Pinedale Anticline supplemental environmental impact statement. The draft SEIS is due for release to the public in May, followed by a 30-day comment period, with the final decision expected to be issued next fall.

Rather than starting entirely from scratch, the BLM has determined that a supplemental EIS is appropriate, building on the Pinedale Anticline EIS that was approved in 2000. Conditions have changed substantially since the 2000 EIS. For example, the 2000 document anticipated that no more than five rigs would be operating in the project area, only two of which would be allowed to work on new locations north of the New Fork River at any one time. In reality, there are at least 12 rigs expected to be operating at the same time north of the New Fork River during this winter, all within crucial big game winter range.

The 2000 document anticipated that 40 to 60 wells would be drilled in the project area annually, while 110 wells were drilled in the area in 2004, and 79 by October 2005.

Along with the increase in drilling activity has come an increased amount of knowledge of the resources through active monitoring programs that focus on diverse resources, from air quality to sage grouse and big game species.

The BLM has adopted a list of goals for the SEIS, including minimizing impacts on air quality and maintenance of important wildlife habitats and maintaining the operational function of the Green River Drift.

Shell Exploration and Production Company, Ultra Resources, and Questar Exploration and Production Company have asked the BLM to allow the companies to have year-round access to the anticline, providing relief from the BLMís seasonal stipulations.

The proposal would allow the Pinedale Anticline to be developed in a manner that would allow more land available to wildlife while reducing the time period for development. The proposal calls for multiple wells to be drilled from single pads while allowing the activity to occur year-round. The companies propose to drill up to 32 wells from single pads.

The public comment deadline for this scoping phase is Nov. 21.

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