Volume 105, Number 7 - February 14, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
by Alecia Warren
Despite the blizzard blanketing the streets outside, Rendezvous Pointe was packed with 175 people at the second public meeting on the Revised Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (RDSEIS) for the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) last Thursday night.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held the second meeting as a continuance of the one held in late January, when the large crowd prevented many from speaking.
Yet none of the more than 60 speakers at the second meeting added any new information to the opinions expressed at the first. In fact, the night was nearly a verbatim repetition of the first meeting’s overwhelming praise of year-round drilling, a provision in the draft’s Alternative D.
The majority of the speakers represented the energy industry, and they further endorsed
the mitigation techniques that operators have volunteered in the draft alternatives. The techniques include using a Liquid Gathering System (LGS) to reduce truck traffic, directional drilling to reduce surface disturbance, and rigs with cleaner burning natural-gas engines.
Mayor Stephen Smith, speaking for himself, said year-round drilling appeals to him because it provides a constant work force to support the local economy.
County Commissioners Bill Cramer and Joel Bousman echoed this praise, though Bousman questioned how prepared the county is for the expanded drilling operations proposed in the draft.
“One of the issues we’ve had with the BLM — not the industry — is part of the planning process,” Bousman said. “The BLM is supposed to do a comprehensive socioeconomic analysis, and in my view, it’s been inadequate. We need information to plan how many cops we’re going to need and how many roads, so we’re not planning after impact occurs, which is what we’re pretty much doing now.”
Bousman added his gratitude for the county’s new infrastructure like the Aquatic Center, the Sublette County Library and the new Medical Clinic, which he said wouldn’t exist without the energy boom.
Mark Smith, director of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS) trade association, said that after observing development plans across the West, he recognized the draft’s Alternative D as “the best of the best” in balancing community and wildlife concerns with providing energy for the rest of the nation.
“One in 5 people in the U.S. are qualifying for energy assistance,” Smith said. “It’s a big deal, especially with all the baby boomers who will retire soon and have to make difficult choices if we don’t supply enough energy. The Rocky Mountain region is providing 25 percent of the nation’s energy, and this is the crown jewel, right here.” Paul Methany, vice president of Questar Exploration and Production, heralded how Alternative D will also overcome the disadvantages of seasonal drilling under the current Record of Decision (ROD). “Year-round drilling is not an experiment. Questar has been doing it since ’04, we’ve installed the LGS and had winter access, and we’re seeing the desired result,” Matheny said, adding that since the operator installed the LGS, the deer population on the Mesa has stabilized and increased.
After two hours of such pro-draft speeches, Pinedale resident Mary Lynn Worl showed admirable gumption in questioning potential health hazards from year-round drilling.
“Honestly, I had a few friends who were coming tonight, but they were intimidated because the bulk of you are from the industry,” Worl began. Although some of the out of-state energy employees had said they were interested in moving to Pinedale, she said, she questioned how many would stay if the gas field suddenly shut down, and whether the future of her hometown means as much to them as it does to her.
“I ask you, have the health risks (of expanded drilling) been thoroughly evaluated?” Worl asked. “Have the health risks to wildlife been thoroughly studied? And I don’t just mean the number of antelope on the Mesa, but reproductive issues. Can you assure me that what’s in the pinkish-grayish hue south of the drilling presents no health hazard to me?”
Worl further wondered about the possibilities of drilling fluids contaminating aquifers, or pollutants mixing with spring runoff into rivers or streams.
“I’m a 66-year-old female who has asked a few questions about the potential impacts of gas development activities on my health,” she said. “But really a 6-year-old needs to ask these questions, and the BLM needs to indicate that none of the answers pose any immediate or long-term risks to (children’s) health. This is my home, and this needs to be a healthy environment for young generations to grow up in.”
Photo credits: Alecia Warren
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