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Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Gas Wells Will Be Drilled Under, But Not On, A Wild Utah Area

In an interesting compromise, an energy development company has won approval to take natural gas from below a pristine area in Utah by using technology that allows wells to be laterally, so roads and well heads can be located away from protected areas.

The Associated Press has this article about the deal. Below are excerpts.

The Bureau of Land Management's approval of Bill Barrett Corp.'s multi-billion-dollar project reflects a deal the drilling company made with environmental groups to pull back from wild areas and limit well pads off the high rim of the Green River's Desolation Canyon.

That canyon, a National Historic Landmark inside one of the Lower 48's largest roadless areas, has seen little change since explorer John Wesley Powell remarked on "a region of wildest desolation" while boating the river in 1896. The area is populated by elk, deer and bighorn sheep, and bear maulings of river runners are not uncommon.

Development activity will be limited during summer so rafters on the Green River can't spy the company's trucks or rigs from thousands of feet below.

The company's presence on land will come close to some proposed wilderness borders, then stop. But it can drill laterally, sight unseen, for nearly a mile — a reach that could lengthen as drilling technology improves, Zavadil said.

"This is a wonderful example of finding balance," (Utah BLM director Juan) Palma told The Associated Press. "It's the kind of collaboration we need. It is not the environment against the economy. It's the environment and economy working together."

In a rare compliment, some of Utah's elected leaders seized the opportunity to hail President Barack Obama's administration for moving energy development forward.


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