By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A proposed major oil and gas development project in Converse County moved one step closer to federal approval with a release of the final environmental impact statement on the project.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Thursday, in its final impact statement on the project that could see more than 5,000 new wells drilled in the next 10 years, continued to select the full development option as its preferred alternative for the project.
The release of the statement triggered a 30-day protest period, after which the BLM will issue a record of decision on the project.
Five energy companies have proposed drilling on about 1.5 million acres of land in Converse County: Occidental Petroleum, Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy, EOG Resources Inc. and Northwoods Energy. Plans call for about 500 wells to be drilled each year over 10-years.
Other options for the project considered by the BLM included allowing no development and allowing the development of all the new wells, but limiting the number of well pads that could be built in the area.
Gov. Mark Gordon, in a prepared statement, said he welcomed the release of the report and noted Wyoming officials had worked extensively with federal officials to make sure the development followed certain measures to protect wildlife and the environment in the area.
“The State of Wyoming worked long and hard to weigh in on issues such as year-round drilling that would still provide appropriate measures to protect wildlife, including raptors as well as Greater sage-grouse,” he said.
He noted the project will involve the use of new drilling technologies that will reduce surface disturbances.
“It reflects what can be accomplished when ingenuity, science, technology and common sense management policies are used to promote energy development and preserve our wildlife,” he said.