From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 3 - April 10, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

BTNF Pushes Back Timeline For Noble Basin Proposal
PXP officials seem content to await deeper DEIS evaluations
by Joy Ufford

A wealth of information received during the public comment period over Plains Exploratory’s (PXP) request to drill on the Hoback Rim is pushing back the anticipated completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) until possibly late fall.

Big Piney District Ranger Greg Clark of the Bridger-Teton National Forest said Tuesday the draft document for PXP’s Eagle prospect and Noble Basin Master Development Plan will likely be released in November rather than May as originally scheduled.

PXP Vice Presidents Steven Rusch and Scott Winters responded jointly to the news Tuesday.

“The decision to delay the DEIS release until November will ensure there is ample time to fully evaluate and understand the various issues that were raised during the scoping period,” they replied.

Issues raised during the scoping period included air quality concerns, wildlife issues, mitigation measures and a need to look at more alternatives, Clark. In order to meet these issues, detail air modeling and additional environmental studies will be completed.

“Based on the comments we received during the scoping period of this analysis, it would be best if we extended the timeframe to allow us to better look at some of the issues,” said Clark. The scoping period on the Eagle Prospect DEIS closed Feb. 7, 2008.

Clark said more time is needed to consider a couple of “extra alternatives” in detail and plan to do some fall wildlife surveys.

Probably the most important element requiring additional time for analysis is modeling for air quality, he said.

“Chances are, the way things go and the whole issue you see developing with air quality like the (Bureau of Land Management’s Pinedale Anticline year-round drilling proposal currently being analyzed), we might as well do it right,” he added.

“PXP is committed to developing a project that is modest and balanced and keeps impacts to an absolute minimum,” said the PXP officials. “PXP looks forward to continuing to work with the Forest Service and local community in developing this project and believes the project will be an asset to Sublette County.”

The proposal from PXP is to conduct drilling for oil and gas resources on BTNF near Hoback Rim and Noble Basin seven miles southeast of Bondurant. The analysis was expanded after a June 2007 request by PXP for BTNF to include a potential field development scenario or Master Development Plan (MDP) in the analysis.

The draft EIS that was first provided to the public early in 2007 generated over 19,000 comments on the proposal. “And then we’ll get a whole slew more,” added Clark, when the DEIS is released.

BTNF expanded the analysis because PXP’s June 2007 request for a full development alternative was a substantial change in the proposed action analyzed in the original DEIS, he said.

PXP’s suspended leases Winters also commented on the status of their company’s holdings in the BTNF’s 44,720-acre suspended-lease region near the Wyoming Range.

“PXP holds approximately 3,000 acres in leases in the block that is currently undergoing supplement environmental review by the Forest Service,” he said.

“PXP’s focus continues to be on developing the Eagle Prospect/Noble Basin project and the company has no immediate plans to develop its acreage in the disputed block.”

Comments are due April 28 to BTNF Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton who is the decision-maker for whether information guiding her earlier contested decision to issue the leases to the BLM should change with new information in the new environmental assessment as to whether the leases will be made active or not.

“The Forest Service’s supplemental analysis will be comprehensive and PXP will abide by the decision of the agency in regards to whether the acreage is formally issued,” Winters said.

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