Solid overview of the current public process
Last week, the public got its first look at plans for a proposed gas project seven miles southeast of Bondurant on the edge of the Wyoming Range.
On Thursday, the Bridger-Teton National Forest released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Eagle Prospect and Noble Basin Master Development Plan. Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) is proposing the project.
The DEIS lists five development alternatives. Two alternatives would prevent drilling; one of those would retire PXP’s leaseholds.
The other three describe the project as a two-phase, 12-year, 17-pad, 136-well sweet-gas development that targets some of the same geologic formations as the prolific Pinedale Anticline and Jonah gas fields.
The project’s first phase is exploratory, consisting of one straight and two directional wells from one pad. Much like Anticline and Jonah wells, the PXP wells will be deep; the company estimates they’ll run 12,500 feet below the surface. PXP expects the gas stream to contain water and condensate, also similar to the Jonah and Anticline. If the exploratory wells prove economical, PXP will move on the phase two – the gas field’s full development.
If the company moves to full development, it estimates using four rigs with 20 people working on each well pad. Because of winter restrictions, drilling will last about 12 years.
During phase two, all traffic will reach the site via the Merna Road. When production begins, produced water and condensate will be trucked out of the field on the same route.
Production is estimated at 30 years.
Of the three alternatives in the DEIS that would permit full development, there are several differences.
One alternative mandates using helicopters instead of heavy trucks to haul in drilling equipment during phase one.
Two alternatives allow the expansion and creation of 28 miles of road. Those alternatives are the PXP-proposed development plan and the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s (BTNF) “preferred alternative.”
While the two plans are very similar, the BTNF’s
preferred alternative creates “no occupancy” buffers to protect moose habitat, prohibitions on in-stream channel construction to protect cutthroat trout and longer winter seasonal closures to protect elk.
In addition, the preferred alternative sets air quality guidelines – similar to the Anticline and Jonah – that require management of ground-level ozone precursors.
Within hours of the DEIS’ release, project opponents reacted.
“Our diverse coalition of hunters, local residents and backcountry users is deeply disappointed by the DEIS findings,” reads a press release from the Citizens for the Wyoming Range (CWR). “The original proposal by (PXP) appears to be largely unchanged, with an unacceptable amount of new road construction, surface disruption and full-scale industrialization of a place where such development simply isn’t appropriate.”
CWR, like other project opponents, points to the Wyoming Range Legacy Act of 2009 that sets aside 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range from
industrialization. It also provides a “buy out” solution where grandfathered leases – such as PXP’s – may be retired. CWR argues the PXP development goes against the legacy act’s intent to preserve the state’s namesake mountains. The group advocates the buy-out option.
PXP has not commented about the buy-out option. On Friday, Scott Winters of PXP said the company is reviewing the DEIS, adding, “PXP has a strong commitment to environmental stewardship exemplified by our participation in a collaborative process that yielded unique and significant impact reductions.”
The public has until March 10, 2011, to submit comments about the DEIS to the BTNF.
Public meetings about the proposed project will be held at the Snow King Resort in Jackson on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., the Bondurant School Auditorium on Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. and the Sublette County Library in Pinedale on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
Find the complete DEIS at http://www.fs.fed.us/