Volume 7, Number 38 - December 13, 2007
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BTNF files new notice for PXP Eagle project
Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) officials filed on Monday a new notice of intent to undertake deeper analyses of much broader potential gas-field development by Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) within its South Rim unit on the edge of theWyoming Range. The public will have through Feb. 7, 2008, to submit comments to BTNF about the PXP project’s expanded scope.
BTNF is now considering an expanded development scenario as outlined in PXP’s latest Master Development Plan (MDP). The MDP “potentially involves” drilling 136 new gas wells from 17 well pads; building 15 miles of new non-forest roads; rebuilding or realigning 14 miles of forest roads and disturbing about 400 acres of new surface for roads, pads, gathering lines and other facilities.
PXP had submitted a previous Eagle Prospect proposal to BTNF requesting approval of an application to drill an exploratory well, Eagle 1-8, and two more wells, Eagle 2-8 and Eagle 3-8, in the Noble Basin-Hoback Rim area. A BTNF draft environmental statement (DEIS) was released to the public in February 2007 and received about 19,000 public comments, many against drilling in the Wyoming Range.
“This constitutes a substantial change in the proposed action analyzed in the DEIS and therefore requires the Forest to revise the analysis and prepare a new DEIS,” the document says.
The heat under the Eagle Prospect project and resulting DEIS were then turned down to a simmer in June while officials from BTNF and PXP discussed the next steps to take.
BTNF Big Piney District Ranger Greg Clark, who will decide whether to approve or amend the PXP request, already confirmed earlier this fall that discussions about the Eagle Prospect project had never stopped.
“Based on comments received and discussions with various agencies, PXP has decided to incorporate a Master Development Plan into their original exploratory proposal for the Eagle Prospect,” says the notice of intent filed Dec. 10.
“The intent is to drill the originally proposed well and if successful, drill the Eagle 2-8 and 3-8 wells. The (MDP) provides a potential development scenario that could occur based on the results of the initial wells. Consideration of the MDP allows for analysis of potential cumulative effects early in the process.”
While “some or all of the MDP may never occur,” the plan includes “planned, anticipated and potential development facilities which will be dependent on the results of the first well drilled.”
Further analysis will not be required “if subsequent development occurs ... within the parameters of the approved MDP,” the notice says.
It is up to Clark as the Forest Service’s Big Piney district ranger to determine “whether and how (with what conditions of approval) to approve the exploration and potential development” on the land surface as identified in the new PXPmaster plan. The director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Robert Bennett, is the deciding official regarding the overall MDP and associated Applications to Drill (APD).
The upcoming DEIS is expected to be released to the public next May and the Final EIS could come less than a year later in March 2009.
There are three preliminary alternatives identified thus far:
Alternative 1: No action;
Alternative 2: The proposed action – approval of PXP’sMDP three pending APDs and potential future development;
Alternative 3: Approval of the proposed MDP with modifications.
“As part of the project design, the Forest has worked closely with PXP in the development of a plan that included consideration of lease stipulations, Forest Plan standards and guidelines and other resource needs,” the notice states. “Components of the proposed project that did not meet those requirements were modified in the design stage.
“Access alternatives, including the use of helicopters instead of roads, will be fully explored as potential modifications to the (MDP).”
The BTNF document lists “preliminary issues associated with the proposed action” as impacts on air quality and air-quality related values (with an emphasis on cumulative effects in the Pinedale area) and if and how building a transportation system “could adversely affect wildlife habitat, movements or migration routes in the area.”
Public comments submitted during the initial scoping and first public-comment periods for the original DEIS “need not be re-submitted,” the document states. “Comments previously submitted as part of the original scoping or comments submitted on the Eagle Prospect DEIS released in February of 2007 need not be re-submitted ... and remain part of the project record,” it says.
While scoping isn’t required for a supplemental statement, “due to the change in the scope of the analysis, the Forest is soliciting comments specific to the Master Development Plan and potential field development.”
Comments concerning the expanded scope’s analysis must be postmarked by Feb. 7, 2008.Written comments can be sent to Greg Clark, District Ranger, Big Piney Ranger District, PO Box 218, Big Piney, WY 83113. Electronic comments can be sent to email@example.com with the subject “PXP Master Development Plan.” For more information, contact Clark at 307-276-5810.
Public meetings are planned for January for Pinedale and Jackson with times and places to be announced in local newspapers and on the ForestWeb site. The notice of intent is posted, as will be other information about the proposal and related analyses: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf.
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