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Utah State Office
Release Date: 07/29/10
Contacts: Megan Crandall , 801-539-4061 ,

BLM Releases West Tavaputs Plateau Project Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision Approving Historic Agreement

PRICE, UTAH—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for the West Tavaputs Natural Gas Full Field Development Plan.  The BLM’s decision reflects a historic agreement between the project proponent, Bill Barrett Corporation (BBC), and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) that will substantially reduce the project’s environmental impacts while continuing to allow for new oil and gas production.

During preparation of the Final EIS, BBC submitted a letter voluntarily reducing the plan of development for the project, which is located in Carbon, Duchesne, and Uintah Counties, Utah.  BBC’s reduced plan, which included extensive collaboration with SUWA, was approved with minor modifications by the BLM through the ROD.  The ROD also provides for development of leased lands held by other operators within the project area. 

Under the newly approved ROD, BBC and other operators plan to drill 626 wells from 120 pads, reducing the initial proposal by 181 wells and 418 well pads.  This reduces the short-term surface disturbance created by the project by more than half, from 3,656 acres to 1,603 acres.  In addition to reducing the amount of development and surface disturbance included in BBC’s proposal, the agreement contains a commitment not to construct wells on existing leases in the Jack and Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Areas and minimize the amount of surface disturbance in areas with wilderness characteristics.  BBC has also committed to additional air quality mitigation measures to address air quality concerns. 
“The agreement between BBC and SUWA is historic in many ways.  It clearly provides for the orderly and balanced development of our nation’s energy supply while, at the same time, serving as an outstanding example of the fresh look of how we can better manage our energy resources.  It improves protections for air, land, water, and cultural resources, while reducing potential conflicts that can lead to costly and time-consuming litigation,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  “I commend everyone involved in the tremendous commitment of time and resources required to develop and implement this agreement.”

“Today’s announcement shows what is possible when parties work together to find common middle ground,” said BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma.  “I want to encourage this type of collaboration as a model to others interested in finding balanced solutions to complex issues.”

“Energy production on Federal land means working with a broad spectrum of stakeholders,” said Bill Barrett Corporation Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board Fred Barrett.  “SUWA and the organizations it represented in our discussions contributed to making our West Tavaputs project what I believe is the most environmentally progressive natural gas development in Utah.  The collaboration leading to this Record of Decision is simply good business.” 

“The Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness area is one of the most remarkable, remote landscapes in the lower 48 states,” said Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Attorney and Energy Program Director Stephen Bloch.  “By working with the Bill Barrett Corporation, we have been able to protect and enhance this unique place while allowing the company to achieve its goal of developing the natural gas resource.”

The Utah State Director signed the ROD on July 2, 2010, which constitutes the final decision of the BLM.  The Selected Alternative in the ROD for the West Tavaputs Plateau Natural Gas Full Field Development Plan consists of elements that are direct components of, or within the range of, alternatives that were analyzed in the Final EIS.  Given the differences between the Final EIS and the ROD, the BLM has decided to release these documents concurrently to provide transparency and full public disclosure of the decision process.  Council on Environmental Quality guidance normally requires a minimum 30-day waiting period between the Notice of Availability for the Final EIS and issuance of a ROD.  However, because this ROD is subject to a 30-day appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, the BLM has decided to issue the ROD at the same time as the Final EIS.  This allows the 30-day appeal period for this ROD and the 30-day waiting/availability period for the EIS to run concurrently.

On February 1, 2008, the BLM opened the Draft EIS for the West Tavaputs project for a 90-day public comment period.  The BLM received approximately 58,000 comment letters from other federal agencies, state and local governments, Indian Tribes, and the interested public.  Since publication of the Draft EIS, the BLM and BBC have worked diligently with stakeholders to resolve issues and concerns related to air quality, wilderness, wildlife, and cultural resources, among others.  Comments received on the Draft EIS resulted in changes to the Final EIS.

Among the changes from the Draft EIS is the incorporation of the Programmatic Agreement to protect cultural resources, signed January 5, 2010, addressing project development issues, including dust raised by increased vehicle traffic and possible visual and auditory impacts associated with energy development.  Implementation of the Programmatic Agreement will benefit the public by providing for the enhancement and interpretation of key archaeological sites in Nine Mile Canyon. Electronic copies of the Final EIS and ROD are available at:

A hard copy can be obtained on request from the Price Field Office.  For further information, contact Don Stephens or Tyler Ashcroft at (435) 636-3600.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

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Last updated: 03-04-2011