The U.S Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Monday approved Gasco Energy's proposed plan to drill up to approximately 1,300 new wells in Utah's Uinta Basin over a 15-year period.
The Record of Decision for the Gasco Uinta Basin Gas Development Environmental Impact Statement will boost America's energy production and strengthen local economies while responsibly protecting the key landscapes and recreational resources of the project area, BLM said in a statement.
"This plan reflects our commitment to responsibly address public concerns regarding resources and land use issues in the Uinta Basin area," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "Working together with Gasco Energy Inc., we have made substantial improvements to protect land and water resources, safeguarding iconic areas such as Desolation and Nine Mile Canyons, while supporting Utah's economy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil."
Gasco's plan had originally called for nearly 1,500 gas wells and the same number of well pads, with a total disturbance area of 7,533 acres, including well pads in Nine Mile Canyon north of Desolation Canyon.
The approved plan allows a maximum of 1,298 wells that will be drilled from no more than 575 well pads. Surface disturbance has been reduced by one-half to 3,600 acres, or about two percent of the total development area of 206,826 acres. The plan also incorporates directional drilling to reduce surface impacts.
Additionally, the plan prohibits any wells below the rim of Nine Mile Canyon in the 100-year floodplain, or in critical habitat for endangered fish.
No drilling or infrastructure will be developed in or near Desolation Canyon. The nearest proposed drill site is about four miles northwest of the Desolation Canyon National Historica Landmark and five miles north of the Desolation Canyon Wildnerness Area.
BLM's Utah State Director Juan Palma called the announcement "a prime example of the successful collaboration among the BLM, Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Uinta and Duchesne counties."
"Together, we worked with Gasco to step up and find ways to minimize impacts to wildlife habitat, air quality and other resources in the Uinta Basin while harnessing important energy resources for our nation," Palma said in a statement.
The Gasco drilling plan will support nearly 200 jobs and guide development of an area that could yield almost 3 trillion cubic feet of gas over the next several decades.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Anadarko Petroleum's plan to drill for natural gas in the Uinta Basin.
"We're pleased that BLM has finally approved this project after eight long years," Kathleen M. Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, told Rigzone. "Gasco's plan balances natural gas development with environmental protection while creating over 2,700 jobs in the near-term and 4,300 in the long-term."
"Gasco agreed to measures to protect air, water and wilderness values, as proposed well sites are four miles or more from Desolation Canyon and not visible from the Green River," Sgamma commented. "We hope that now BLM will move forward with the eight other proposed projects in Utah without the same eight year delay."
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