Date: March 14, 2006
Contact: Steven Hall
BLM Approves Plan to Produce Vast Wyoming Natural Gas Resource
State of Wyoming and Federal Employees to staff interagency office for project monitoring, habitat improvement and mitigation
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today approved a Wyoming energy project expected to provide about 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – enough natural gas to heat 4.8 million homes for 20 years. The Jonah Infill Drilling Project approval also creates an interagency office to monitor and mitigate environmental and wildlife impacts during the life of the project.
The 30,000-acre Jonah Infill Drilling Project Area is located approximately 32 miles southeast of Pinedale in south-central Sublette County, Wyo. The new interagency office to be called the Jonah Interagency Monitoring and Mitigation Office (JIO), will measure surface disturbance and reclamation efforts to provide timely information to determine impacts on the environment and wildlife within the project area. The JIO will also identify and fund habitat improvement projects in nearby areas to offset impacts within the Jonah field and the temporary impacts to wildlife habitat associated with oil and gas development.
The JIO, to be funded with $24.5 million from EnCana Oil and Gas, USA, Inc., will be staffed by State of Wyoming and BLM employees. JIO staff will work together to monitor oil and gas development and to oversee habitat improvement projects.
“The companies, Wyoming and BLM and state and local agencies have tried their best to strike a balance in maximizing the extraction and minimizing the impacts,” Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal said. “The result we see at the end of the plan, and not the plan itself, will be the measure of success. Frankly, I think that all parties want to see this work and work well,” he added.
The plan provides incentives for industry to minimize the amount of land disturbed by development activities while encouraging more timely reclamation of short-term disturbance like temporary roads or pipelines. The Jonah Infill Project Record of Decision (ROD) announced by the BLM today also limits the amount of total surface disturbance at any given time to 46 percent (14,030 acres) of the field (30,500 acres). However, reclaimed acreage will be credited toward available surface disturbance limits, up to a maximum cumulative surface disturbance of 20,300 acres.
The BLM conducted a supplemental air quality report as part of the Jonah Infill Drilling Project EIS that identified a variety of mitigation measures to protect air quality and reduce visibility impacts in the region. The Environmental Protection Agency described the Jonah air quality analysis and EIS as “a model of collaboration between agencies” that should be “the standard for the future.”
“The preferred alternative for the Jonah Infill Drilling Project provides a crucial domestic source of natural gas while minimizing the impacts of development,” said BLM Wyoming State Director Bob Bennett. “This project will be a vital source of much-needed energy and a key part of the Wyoming and national economy for years to come.”
The project is expected to generate more than $6 billion in royalties to be shared between the federal treasury and the State of Wyoming. The total economic activity expected to be generated from natural gas and oil development will be approximately $30.5 billion during the life of the project.
“In coming months, we will focus on establishing effective communication between the project office and the many people interested in energy development in the Jonah field,” JIO Project Office Manager Mike Stiewig said. “We will establish a protocol to identify and prioritize off-site mitigation projects, and we look forward to finding those solutions in partnership with the local community and local governments.”
The Jonah Infill Drilling Project FEIS and Record of Decision can be found on the BLM website at: www.wy.blm.gov/nepa/pfodocs/jonah/. The Sublette County Library (both Pinedale and Big Piney branches), State Library, and University of Wyoming Coe Library have hard copies and CDs of the document. Hard copies or CDs may be requested in writing from: BLM-Pinedale Office. Jonah Infill Drilling Project, BLM-Pinedale Field Office, P.O. Box 768, Pinedale, WY 82941. Email comments may be submitted to: WyMail_Jonah_Infill@blm.gov.