From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 30 - October 18, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Opinions Voiced At Meetings Regarding BLM Mancamp

by Trey Wilkinson

With EnCana proposing to put a temporary 350-person man camp on 15 acres of Bureau of Land Management Land (BLM) near the energy company’s Jonah Field gas operations, a pair of meetings (one in Pinedale Oct. 10 and one in Big Piney Oct. 11) were held to allow Sublette County citizens an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the proposed man camp.

Meeting attendees included representatives from EnCana, Ultra, Shell and Questar as well as a number of local citizens. “I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal,” EnCana Community Relations Advisor Randy Teeuwen said. “The comment period ended, we got a lot of comments of support that have gone in to the BLM.”

Teeuwen said he plans to be in Pinedale this week to look at comments to see if there are areas of concern.

The idea of holding these meetings came to fruition thanks to Diane and Riley Alexander, owners of Mountain Village Parks (MVP), a man camp two miles south of Big Piney where EnCana’s drilling contractor, Ensign Services, among others, lease MVP land for their own temporary housing and dining structures.

The Alexanders wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in last week’s Sublette Examiner, as well as bought radio and newspaper advertising in order to make locals aware of the proposal due to the fact the BLM’s public comment period ended Monday.

As for the public meetings held Oct. 10 and 11, the Alexanders provided on overview of what was discussed at both meetings, which included the following information:

• When EnCana was asked if they were going to house 350 people at their campright away, they said they would move over 100 rig workers out of Big Piney to the camp by Nov. 1.

• EnCana plans to house and feed their company executive and government officials who visit from out of town, and all of their flow back and fracking crews and other 24-7 operation crews.

• When asked if they would have a C store or commissary on the public land, so the workers could buy cigarettes, tobacco, snacks, gas, etc., they admitted they would have to have these items available for the workers to buy.

• The sentiment from one citizen was, “People who work for the companies contracted to EnCana are not just ‘rig pigs ’who don’t want a normal social life. Many are young college students who are working for pay for ‘the next semester’ of college. Some are family men who live in normal housing in the county or elsewhere, who will be required to stay and eat at the mancamp, but will not be able to go home to see their children or spouses. Some are church and community oriented people and would like to attend events on their evenings off. Some like to go have a beer and play pool at the local bar or go out to eat and get away from their work crew. All of them are normal people who do not want to be confined out in the middle of nowhere to a man camp. Some would enjoy not driving everyday to work and say that a comfortable bus ride would really increase their resting time.” According to EnCana, none of them will be able to leave for any of these reasons during their work week, or longer depending on their company schedule, unless they want to be fired.

Is it a prison camp or not? The answer to this question was different at each meeting. At the Thursday meeting EnCana said, “It is not a prison camp. Workers will be free to come and go as they please.” They said the caliber of employees that were hired by Ensign Drilling did not drink at their camps.

The owners of MVP objected by saying that in the spring they picked up several 55-gallon garbage bags full of beer bottles and cans in the front of their camp where their workers park some of their vehicles.

EnCana said that in the Jonah camp they would be fired if they bring alcohol into the camp or come back to the camp drunk. However, at the Friday night meeting, EnCana stated that there would be a security fence placed around the property with a full time security guard checking workers in and out. The only people that could leave were those going to work or those who had good reason to leave like a death in the family.

When asked what would happen if someone chose to leave to come to town, they said they would be fired, and that they were renegotiating contracts with their contracted companies requiring that their workers abide by these strict rules.

•When asked if they were so concerned about safety why they have not been busing for the several years that they have been in operation, their answer was that would be difficult to get their men to work on time when they bus. Ensign admitted that they were required to bus a few of their workers in the winter if they worked on the anticline. It was suggested that they take one big bus hauling everyone to their office in the field and then take them out to their rigs in smaller vehicles, which are all in a very shot proximity of their office. Their only response was that some of their workers refuse to ride a bus. One Questar representative said they made it a requirement that if their employees wanted to work for them that there were no other options. EnCana evaded the original question by saying, “this is still a safety issue, if we can save one life it will all be worth it.” When someone stated they felt it was and is always a money issue and that they would be making a lot of money by renting the remaining 250 rooms out to other workers who would normally be stating in Pinedale lodging, and when asked by one of the owners of MVP if they would be charging the workers to stay at their camp, and EnCana representative asked, “do you charge at your camp?”

The response by MVP was, “yes, but we bought our land, we didn’t have the tax payers provide it for us.”

The EnCana representative said, “of course we will have to charge.” MVP then asked, “so you are taking business away form locals who already provide these services, all in the name of safety?”

• When concerns were raised as to how easy it would be for EnCana to get a lease from the BLM to put a housing complex on public land, an EnCana representative stated that anyone can be permitted to lease public land for housing their workers, because congress has allowed the BLM to be leased for multiuse, just like the ranchers grazing their cattle. No one could say how likely it would be for a common small business person or individual to be permitted to do this, but all of the other oil company representatives reassured MVP owners that they didn’t plan on moving their workers out in the field, but admitted they had many living on the rig sites already.

• When asked if EnCana would allow locals to bid to provide housing or food services for their project they said, “not likely, we have such a good working relationship with Ensign Drilling and Arctic Catering, that we’ll just keep them.”

• Some people felt that by moving the workers to the Jonah camp would not reduce the traffic that much, compared to busing the workers, because EnCana will have to hire approximately 1.25 employees for every 10 people who reside in the man camp. A camp the size of the one that is being proposed will require at least 44 employees to man the operations, not counting the BLM employees who will be in charge of managing their use of our public lands. Traffic will also increase due to hauling food, water and equipment in to the camp and garbage and sewage out.

• It was asked if the BLM conducted a study about what kind of effect moving man camps out of existing camps will have on local business’ before granting this permit. No one answered the question.

Other points of interest dispersed in a document at the meetings include:

• EnCana already owns 480 acres of their own private landinside the Johan Field near this 15 acres of public land they want to lease.

• There is no electricity, drinkable water or sewer disposal on this 15-acre site.

• EnCana doesn’t want to use their own land for the man camp, because their land is “fully developedw ith 10-acre spaced wells.”

•EnCana has stated that they do not have adequate housing in Sublette County for all of their workers.

• EnCana’s drilling company, Ensign USA Drilling, has over 50 skid cam units parked in the already existing Big Piney man camp, which has the capacity to sleep 300 workers.

•EnCana has stated that allowing them to put a man camp on public lands would reduce traffic, emissions and increase safety, and that their number one reason for having aman camp on public lands is “safety.”

Teeuwen said there was “no contention or animosity” at the meetings held by the Alexanders.

“We wanted people to understand what we are going to do,” he said. “We were glad to have the public meetings setup and open.”

According to Pinedale BLM Planning and Environmental Coordinator Caleb Hiner, the next step is for the BLM to complete an environmental analysis, which he said should happen in the next couple of weeks, and then make a decision.

“I thought there was a good turnout and good comments made (at the Pinedale meeting Oct. 10),” Hiner said. “I was impressed to see that much public involvement.”

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