Volume 105, Number 1 - January 3, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
BLM offers new impact possibilities
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Pinedale Field Office released a notice of availability (NOA) for the Revised Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (RDSEIS) explaining the proposed long-term plan for energy exploration and development on the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA).
The public commentary period on the RDSEIS extends through Monday, Feb. 11, 2008, after which the BLM will review responses and begin drafting the Final SEIS, due for release this summer.
The revised draft can be viewed at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/pfodocs/anticline/seis.html, with hard copies available at the Pinedale Field Office. Written comments can be sent to the Bureau of Land Management, Pinedale Field Office, PAPA RDSEIS Project Manager, 1625 West Pine Street, P.O. Box 768, Pinedale, WY. 82941. E-mails may be sent to WYMail_PAPA_YRA@blm.gov.
The BLM wrote the RDSEIS after receiving more than 57,000 complaints and suggestions during the public comment period on the original SEIS draft last winter. Changes consist mostly of updated baseline data and extended analysis of potential socioeconomic, environmental, air quality and wildlife impacts.
The most significant differences between the original and revised drafts, said Chuck Otto, Pinedale BLM Field Manager, are the new alternatives D and E, first released for public comment in October.
Alternative D, the BLM’s “preferred alternative,” was adapted from a proposed version written by the energy operators themselves, with help from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (GFD).
“I think this will be a much more realistic alternative, based on what the energy companies foresee with development on the anticline,” Otto said.
The alternative includes an expanded core drilling area divided into five sections on the mesa. A potential drilling area (PDA) surrounding the core area might eventually open for year-round development.
Operators — referred to as "proponents" in the RDSEIS — would reduce traffic on the anticline by more than 150,000 truck trips a year after installing computer-assisted equipment monitoring and a Liquid Gathering System (LGS) that would transport production fluids via pipeline.
Proponents would suspend leases on big game habitats on the flanks of the anticline, as well as well as establish term NSO (no surface occupancy) leases in that area to prohibit development there for at least the first five years.
The alternative would further create a monitoring and migration matrix, with a $36 million mitigation fund supplied by the proponents. “Ultra, Shell and Questar recognize the importance of balancing natural gas development with minimizing the impacts to habitat, wildlife, air, water resources and the local community,” wrote spokespeople for the three companies in an e-mail about the alternative they helped write.
Alternative E includes the same full-field development of 4,399 new wells specified in the original alternatives, only with seasonal restrictions carried over from the 2000 Record of Decision (ROD).
The alternative would slow the pace of development by an additional 10 years, with the drilling period extended through 2033. It would only allow year-round drilling by exception. Many members of the public who commented on the original SEiS draft demanded that the BLM slow the pace of energy development. Otto admitted this wasn’t addressed in either of the new alternatives, as the issue isn’t within the BLM’s jurisdiction.
“The pace of development is really dictated by the economy, so from that standpoint, the energy companies really have it in their (control) as to whether or not they want to slow things down,” Otto said.
Alternative E does entail slower development, but only because operators inevitably can’t drill as many wells in a given period when seasonal stipulations are in place, he said.
“(Slowed development) wasn’t intentional on the BLM’s part,” he said.
The Town of Pinedale was one of many entities to request slowing development after the original SEIS draft was released, but Lauren McKeever, assistant to the Mayor of Pinedale, said no one with the Town of Pinedale would have time to review the revised SEIS until the rush of the holiday season dissipates.
The alternatives from the original draft remain unchanged.
Alternative A stands as the “no action” alternative, which can either mean “no project” when a new project is proposed, or “no change,” requiring the project to follow current BLM policy in the PAPA.
Alternative B would allow drilling 4,399 new wells and surface disturbance of up to 12,885 acres. The alternative specifies a core area where year-round drilling would be allowed. Proponents would install an LGS, and offer 3:1 mitigation for wildlife. Alternative C includes the same development, but with directions on where yearround drilling would not be allowed, with the intent to control spatial disturbance over time.
When asked which of the draft changes the public might find controversial, Otto only chuckled.
“The real question is, what will not be controversial?” he said. “I think there are things in the revised draft that some folks will like — the companies are alternately suspending some leases to protect migrating wildlife and wintering wildlife, so that’s good.
“But on top of the mesa, we’re seeing an expanded area in Alternative D that would allow drilling without applying seasonal stipulations for certain species, so there’s still a lot of development going on. There’s something in there for everybody.”
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