Plan for new wells near Garfield Co. a go
The Bureau of Land Management has signed off on a plan that could result in EnCana Oil & Gas drilling 327 wells from 120 pads on the border of Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.The BLM’s White River Field Office, based in Meeker, approved a geographic area plan submitted by EnCana for the Piceance Basin’s Figure Four federal unit, an area whose outline roughly resembles the numeral 4. The land totals 17,385 acres, and is located southwest of Meeker and northwest of Parachute.About 6,700 acres are federal land, about 9,200 acres are private land with federal mineral rights, and the rest consists of private surface lands with private mineral rights.The land is fairly evenly split between Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.The plan is intended to be a management tool to plan for oil and gas development and analyze impacts over a broad area. EnCana still must file applications to drill individual wells.The BLM conducted an environmental assessment and approved the plan with a list of conditions aimed at minimizing environmental impacts.”The approved mitigation measures result in a Finding of No Significant Impact on the human environment,” the BLM stated in its plan approval. “Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not necessary to further analyze the environmental effects of the proposed action.”The BLM has ordered the relocation of 20 proposed well pad locations, and/or their corresponding access locations, to reduce environmental impacts. Another 32 pad sites and/or access roads underwent more minor shifts in location or orientation.The plan allows long-term disturbance of 480 acres, and includes 33 miles of new roads and 35 miles of upgraded roads.It would result in about 71 miles of pipelines for gas and water produced in drilling, and two compressor stations. “We have tried to mitigate impacts associated with natural gas development while still developing an important energy resource,” BLM White River field manager Kent Walter said. “EnCana will use directional drilling and existing roads where possible to minimize impacts to other resources in the area.”Thirteen exploratory natural gas wells were previously drilled in the federal unit, and several of them indicated further drilling would be commercially viable, the BLM said in its plan.It also said the project is in keeping with Garfield County’s comprehensive plan and zoning for the area, which provide for resource extraction.”In brief, the project would be consistent with the planning objectives and goals of Garfield County, provided conditional or special use permits are obtained where required and are complied with by EnCana,” the plan states. The plan anticipates that the drilling work would be carried out over a three- to four-year period, beginning as soon as this year. Work would be seasonal due to the elevation and north-facing aspect of much of the land involved.An estimated 175 workers would be needed for the energy development. The plan projects that it would add an average of 86 commuter roundtrips per day from communities such as Meeker, Rifle, Silt and Rangely.
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