The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 10 - 11/4/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Jonah II EIS Appeal Fails
The appeal of the Jonah II Natural Gas Project in southern Sublette County has failed, according to Prill Mecham, Field Manager for the BLM's Pinedale Area Office.
Linda Baker of Boulder and the Audubon Society appealed the final Jonah II decision arguing that the 1/4-mile buffer zone around sage grouse leks as outlined in the decision was too small.
Though the appeal failed, Ms. Mecham told the commissioners that the board making the decision told the BLM to conduct more research on the specific effects of oil and gas development on sage grouse. She said the Department of Energy has provided grant money to fund sage grouse research in southwest Wyoming, and suspects much of the work will be conducted in the Jonah Field.
Appeal Failure Will Accelerate Well Spacing-Reduction Decision
The failure of the Jonah II decision appeal will accelerate the BLM's study and consideration of the industry proposal to decrease the well spacing at the Jonah Field, says Ms. Mecham. On October 15th, the BLM began the scoping process for the proposal to cut in half the well spacing at Jonah, down from 80-acre spacing to 40-acre spacing.
The industry has proposed drilling up to 16 wells, instead of up to 8 wells, per section in roughly one-half of the original EIS project boundary. The total number of wells allotted for the project - 300 - would remain the same. The primary change is that the development would occur at twice the density on approximately one-half of the original project area.
McMurry Oil and the other Jonah operators have asked for the change because they say the extensive drilling that has occurred at Jonah since the original EIS was completed has extensively mapped the formations and location of the natural gas reserve. The operators argue that increased well density drilling will allow them to more completely tap Jonah's natural gas reserve.
According to Ms. Mecham, the BLM wasn't expecting to be able to make a decision on the well-spacing reduction proposal until after the Jonah II appeal ruling. She didn't expect that ruling for another two years, and says the BLM was somewhat surprised that it was ruled on so quickly. Further, because the appeal failed, Ms. Mecham said the BLM will most likely conduct a less strenuous Environmental Assessment (EA) on the proposal, rather than the more thorough and extensive supplement to the original Jonah II EIS. This "significantly changes the time frame" for the decision on the well-spacing reduction proposal. Ms. Mecham believes a decision can be made as early as next spring.
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