Supplemental Air Quality Review Provides Path Forward for Major Utah Gas Development Project


Strong Mitigation and Improved Coordination between Agencies Help Meet Nation’s Energy Needs While Protecting Air Quality


06/09/2011

Contact: Kendra Barkoff (DOI) 202-208-6416
Mitch Snow (BLM) 801-539-4020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced an important step forward for a major natural gas development project in Utah’s Uintah Basin that would include up to 3,675 new gas wells and potentially produce more than 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over 10 years.

The Greater Natural Buttes Area Gas Development Project, first proposed by Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP in 2006, has been delayed in part over concerns about its impacts on air quality in the Uintah Basin, which has seen some of the unhealthiest winter time ozone levels in the nation. Over the last several months, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked closely with the company to develop a mitigation plan to significantly reduce the project’s potential impact on air quality in the surrounding area.

“This project has the potential to create hundreds of jobs for Utah, infuse millions of dollars into local communities, and help power our economy with natural gas as part of our nation’s comprehensive energy portfolio,” said Secretary Salazar. “I am encouraged that the BLM, EPA, and the company found a collaborative path forward that would put sensible air pollution control technologies to work as the field is explored and developed. We are going to work to institutionalize this type of collaboration between the BLM and EPA to ensure that future proposals receive prompt and thorough reviews and are not delayed by unnecessary bureaucracy.”

With this announcement, the BLM will be publishing in the Federal Register tomorrow the public notice of the air quality Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Greater Natural Buttes Project.

In the air quality Supplement outlined today, Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation - working cooperatively with the BLM and the EPA - has committed to using a host of readily available air pollution control technologies, including a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of using low-emission natural gas fueled drilling rigs to mitigate impacts associated with its project. The innovative adaptive management strategy proposed for this project will allow future development to be informed by subsequent analyses planned by the BLM.

“Today’s announcement exemplifies the kind of progress that can be made when Federal agencies work together and demonstrates the need for additional cooperation and consultation on future projects,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “In places like Vernal, Utah where winter time ozone levels can sometimes be among the highest in the country, in part due to oil and gas development, we must be especially vigilant that such projects proceed the right manner and with the right mitigation.”

The Greater Natural Buttes Project Area encompasses approximately 162,911 acres in an existing gas producing area located in Uintah County, Utah. Total new surface disturbance under the BLM preferred alternative would be approximately 8,147acres, or 5% of the total Greater Natural Buttes Project Area.

In the first two months of 2011, the Uintah Basin experienced 23 days when ozone exceeded the acceptable levels of pollution. Five of these days were considered “very unhealthy” for people.

The Supplement, notice of which is published in the Federal Register on June 10, 2010, is available for 45 days of public review and comment. The document supplements the information and analysis contained in the Greater Natural Buttes Draft EIS, which was released for public review and comment in July 2010. The Supplement will be available on the BLM Vernal Field Office website at: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/vernal/planning/nepa_.html.

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