Several conservation groups are asking the nation’s land management agency to strengthen environmental protections before approving what would be Wyoming’s largest natural gas drilling project.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and others submitted comments to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Tuesday asking the agency to beef up restrictions and limitations on the nearly 9,000-well Continental Divide-Creston Natural Gas project planned between Rock Springs and Rawlins.
“With a project this large, and this close to an existing area of unhealthy air pollution, it is imperative that the BLM gets this right,” Jon Goldstein, EDF’s senior energy policy manager, said in a prepared statement. “The BLM must ensure that it takes every measure it can to protect air quality, including doing some commonsense things like detecting and controlling pollution leaks from equipment.”
One company at the forefront of the project, Anadarko Petroleum, thinks the BLM’s study of the project — released late last year in a draft environmental impact statement — is sufficient. But the company indicated Tuesday a willingness to work with those interested in the project.
“We believe many of the measures included in the draft ensure protection for the natural environment while allowing for responsible energy production,” company spokesman Brian Cain said in an email. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders, as well as the BLM, as this process moves forward.”
Among the requests made by the conservation groups are an emphasis on multiple well pads utilizing directional drilling, enhanced resource protection plans for wildlife and vegetation, and continued maintenance of currently undeveloped tracts of land included in the project proposal.
The groups also hired an independent air quality expert, Megan Williams, who submitted comments saying the agency’s emissions estimates were too low. Williams’ analysis also concluded that the agency’s plan doesn’t include enough self-monitoring.
If approved, the Continental Divide-Creston project would quickly become Wyoming’s largest continuous project area approved by the federal government. The project area is a merger of two multicompany proposals made in 2005 and encompasses more than one million acres.
The roughly 20 companies involved in the project — including BP American Production, Anadarko Petroleum and Devon Energy — hope to develop the area over 15 years and operate the field about 50 years.
The public comment period on a draft environmental impact statement for the project closes today. Comments will be considered by the BLM before a final environmental impact statement is issued.