Governor Matt Mead has submitted a letter to the U.S. Forest Service commenting on a proposed oil and natural gas project in the Hoback region the Bridger Teton National Forest. The letter addresses the Eagle Prospect and Noble Basin Master Development Plan. Plains Exploration and Production Company has proposed drilling 136 wells from 17 pads.
Governor Mead wrote to Forest Supervisor Jacqueline Buchanan that the location of this project is stirring interest. “That part of the state is a spectacular entrance to some of Wyoming’s most dramatic landscapes and important tourist destinations,” the letter states. “But I have repeatedly stated to all those voicing their opinion about this matter that any Wyoming location — the high grass prairies of Goshen County, the Alkali Flats in the Big Horn Basin, or elsewhere — is equally important. Regardless of a landscape’s more or less glamorous qualities, any decision must include a thoughtful approach to protecting as well as enriching Wyoming’s people, economy and environment. These are not mutually exclusive options.”
Governor Mead also wrote that existing lease rights should be valued in the same way as other private property rights, though he notes development has to be pursued responsibly. Specifically Governor Mead notes that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement does not incorporate sufficient baseline data in a number of areas. The letter says the location of the drilling serves as important habitat for big game and fisheries and urges the Forest Service to work with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to ensure that concerns are addressed in the final Environmental Impact Statement.
Besides being wildlife habitat Governor Mead wrote that this area is also the headwaters for a critical watershed and that current monitoring objectives, including who will be responsible for these activities, are not adequately addressed in the Draft EIS. The Governor encourages the Forest Service to work with cooperators, including PXP, state agencies and other stakeholders to develop a monitoring framework and mitigation plan for ground and surface water before any development occurs. The other impact the Governor wrote about is air quality, writing that he is already concerned about the issue: “While volatile organic compound emissions and nitrogen oxide emissions have declined in the neighboring Pinedale Anticline and Jonah fields because of the measures operators there have implemented, we see occasional, yet very troubling, spikes in ozone. And while these spikes are unique to particular winter conditions, the problem may only get harder to solve with more development in the area. For these reasons I support the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Division’s urging that mitigation be developed to encourage innovation and progress towards new solutions to reduce emissions.” The Governor is interested in seeing that additional baseline air quality data is obtained closer to the proposed development site.
Governor Mead will continue to work with the Forest Service as a cooperating agency as this proposal moves forward, including final conservation and mitigation measures.