Volume 104, Number 33 - August 16, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Analysis: Negative on drilling
It appears there has been a change of heart in Western Wyoming in regard to the gas boom after a quantitative analysis of the public comments received on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Resource Management Plan (RMP) Environmental ImpactStatement (EIS) was completed.
The RMP draft issued by BLM in January was projected to increase the amount of natural gas wells located in the Pinedale Resource Area over the next 10 to 15 years, according to a press release issued by the Upper Green River Valley Coalition. In their responses to the BLM’s plan, Pinedale officials responded by asking the agency to slow down the pace of energy development. “The focal point of our comment was asking the BLM to please take into consideration the social and economic impacts …,” Mayor’s Assistant Lauren McKeever said.
The town is currently faced with $25 million worth of infrastructure upgrades that need to be made in Pinedale due to increasing population caused by the energy development that is taking place, McKeever said. “We urge the BLM to slow down, or at least more evenly pace energy development to allow affected towns, such as Pinedale, to adequately plan for infrastructure capacities, increased traffic, to allow market forces to increase the amount of housing available, allow our school systems to plan for a greater population and the myriad of other effects to our community from a rapid population influx,” the town’s formal comment stated.
Pinedale officials also mentioned the lack of available workers in the area to keep local businesses afloat.
“Town officials have not seen improved stability in our workforce, but have seen the opposite, with local workers harder to find for area businesses, and other non-energy businesses suffering as a result,” the comment stated.
Other comments from the town stated that rising energy costs are preventing younger residents from purchasing homes in and around Pinedale, said Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition. Concerns were also raised regarding the growing social and economic impacts that are already noticeable and linked to the gas boom.
“We have witnessed … a significant increase in local crime, real-estate values increasing so fast that housing has become unaffordable to many workers, creating a strain on community services … ,” town officials stated.
Of the more than 96,500 comments submitted,many of them supported restrictions on gas drilling whereas only .28 percent supported increased gas drilling. “99.7 percent of the comments were overwhelmingly negative,” Baker said.
Baker also said that of the 830 comments submitted by Wyoming residents, 70 percent of them were in favor of Alternative 3, which puts restrictions on gas drilling. Local residents were also able to voice their opinions and concerns about the RMP during the comment period, which ended June 18.
“The social fabric of this community is being torn apart,” wrote JJ Healy and Julia Nielson Healy of the Double J Ranch in Daniel, Wyo. “ … And we take issue with the BLM office in Pinedale dictating our future.”
Gov. Dave Freudenthal issued his comments on the plan as well, asking the BLM to reconsider its plan. He insisted that the BLM assure the protection of the lands that have not already been leased by oil or gas field companies in order to maintain the natural beauty of the state.
Freudenthal also said that loopholes in the plan make him doubt that the BLM has any intention to protect lands other than those that will be used for energy development. These loopholes were also a concern for Pinedale resident Gretchen Dale.
“In general, the BLM’s preferred Alternative 4 allows for too much oil and gas development too quickly with too many loopholes, of which the oil and gas industry is too good at taking advantage …, ” she stated in her comment. Upon looking over the numerous responses that were submitted by the general public, Pinedale RMP Project Manager Kellie Roadifer said she was greatly appreciative of the content.
“The first thing I thought was how much effort and how much thought people put into their comments,” she said. Roadifer said she was not surprised by the amount of comments the BLM received or the content of those comments. “The team is right now formulating responses to those comments,” she said. Now that all the comments have been received, the BLM will be looking at how the EIS can be altered and improved. “The public comments are central to that,” Roadifer said.
Once the comments are taken into consideration, Roadifer said the EIS will be revamped and will be reintroduced in January. The RMP EIS can be viewed at http://www.blm.gov/rmp/wy/pinedale/documents.html.
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