From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 22 - 1/27/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Residents Comment on Draft EIS
Most advocate development - with protections
by Tony Tully

Nearly one hundred citizens gathered in the Pinedale Auditorium on the evening of January 13, 2000 for a public hearing on the Pinedale Anticline Gas Development Draft EIS, and to address the panel involved in choosing an alternative from those presented in the EIS. Public interest was broadly based with representatives present from Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Park, Freemont, Unita, and Natrona counties, and license plates indicating attendees from Colorado.

Several of those who spoke argued in favor of maximum development based on economic grounds. David Bunning, owner of a trucking company in Rock Springs, summed up these arguments well, noting that the average well, which he estimates will cost $1.5 million, is approximately 75% taxable and will generate $45,000 in sales taxes. If 900 wells were drilled, over $10 million in sales taxes would accrue to Sublette County, in addition to millions in property taxes. He also noted that approximately 125 people are involved in various capacities in drilling each well, and that each new job would create three new supporting jobs in other industries.

Betty Wilkinson, representing the Southwest Wyoming Minerals Association, wondered "When do people become a threatened or endangered species?"

Others were concerned with restrictions on the number of rigs that could be active at one time and increased well spacing.

Sublette County residents who spoke were more cautious. Michael Klaren, speaking on behalf of Sylvia Sandoval of the Mocroft Ranch advocated strict mitigation, including prohibiting drilling within 800 feet of residences, noise mitigation and possible cessation of drilling at night.

Michael Kramer, who is building a house in the New Fork Social Club inside the project boundaries, recommended drilling be restricted within one-half mile of residences, and that the 500-foot buffer for wetlands be expanded. Mr. Kramer calculates that annual emissions from full field development would include 3,250,960 pounds of hazardous air pollutants, 14,259,520 pounds of volatile organic compounds, 478,900 pounds of benzene, and 89,420 pounds of sulfur dioxide. Mr. Kramer further noted benzene's well-documented role as a carcinogen.

Linda Baker of Boulder expressed concerns that field development will negatively impact wildlife, especially sage grouse, and that this impact constitutes a "taking" from the people of Wyoming. She pointed out the conflict between the BLM's mandate to maximize recovery of mineral resources and its mission statement to "sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations".

Rod Rozier of Pinedale echoed this sentiment, saying, "Natural gas is one of the resources given to Sublette County, but not the only one. It should be developed in a way that doesn't damage those other resources." Mr. Rozier also noted that operators are not always cooperative when it comes to implementing voluntary mitigation measures. When he requested that an operator re-direct the large floodlights that were shining in his bedroom, he was told to "close his curtains".

Rancher Jim Noble of Cora advocated development. While in the service Mr. Noble said saw children picking through garbage dumps for food, and is afraid that "we're headed that same direction, here in this country". He feels that projects like the Pinedale Anticline will produce sorely needed jobs. Mr. Noble opposes action by the County to impose protective measures governing drilling on private lands, noting that he was part of a group that negotiated protective stipulations in their leases. He also feels that if decreased well spacing is necessary to make the play economic, it should be allowed. He was concerned about air and water quality and advocated covering pits with netting to protect birds, but otherwise considers the protections already included in the draft EIS to be adequate.

Missing from all the comments was that economics may make all of this a moot point. Recent comments from operators drilling on the northern end of the anticline indicate that the initial results may not justify further development. The meeting was for public input only, so no actions were taken. The panel members listened passively with only one request for clarification being made.

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Copyright © 1999 The Sublette County Journal
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