From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 48 - February 23, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Jonah Infill draws mixed comments

by Cat Urbigkit

The recent closure of the public comment period for the Jonah infill project final environmental impact statement saw several dozen letters make it to the Bureau of Land Management, with most of the comments supportive of the preferred alternative or the operator’s proposal.

Letters of support came from a variety of interests, including the Sublette County Commission, U.S. Energy Corp. of Riverton, Pinedale Mayor Rose Skinner and Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo, Wyoming State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis, Rocky Mountain Energy Reporter, Sweetwater Economic Development Association and the Wyoming Contractors Association.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ray Hunkins commented, “All of Wyoming should be excited by the prospect that the Jonah Field will provide good long-term jobs and a stable economy.”

But not all the comments were supportive of either the operators’ proposal or the agency’s preferred alternative.

Under the proposal, “two of every three acres will be bulldozed, thereby destroying two-thirds of the wildlife habitat” within the Jonah infill area, according to the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance of Laramie and the Center for Native Ecosystems of Denver, which joined together in submitted comments on the FEIS.

“Only the no-action alternative would afford protection of the environment and resource values,” these groups claimed, noting that the operators “stand to make many billions of dollars in profit from developing the lease resources irregardless of whether or not the mitigation actions under consideration are required by the record of decision.”

“The lease holder may have a right to develop the leased resources as a whole, but they are not given a right to make a profit on every well necessary to develop those resources,” the letter said, called for the FEIS to either be “withdrawn or supplemented in order for the proposed project to meet the stated purposes for protection of the environment.”

The letter said that the FEIS must have a broader range of alternatives, including one that provides “in existing areas of disturbance new wells could be drilled only from existing pads; while in new areas of drilling the well pad spacing should be limited to 640 acres (one well pad per square mile).

The groups stated: “While we do not oppose recovery of the gas resource, we do oppose the manner in which the BLM would allow it to happen. It is imperative there be a balance between recovery of the resource.

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