Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Armando Lopez, 505-627-0248
For Immediate Release: June 22, 2004 Jeffrey Krauss, 202-452-5127

Interior Department Announces Winners of Fluid Mineral Award

CHEYENNE , Wyo. -- The Department of the Interior today announced the winners of the new 2004 Fluid Mineral Awards. The awards were presented during the National Fluids Mineral Conference in Cheyenne , Wyo. The Fluid Mineral Environmental winners are the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, District 4, located in Bakersfield , California , and Merit Energy Company's Hamilton Dome Oil Field, of Thermopolis , Wyo . Fidelity Exploration and Production in Montana 's Powder River Basin received a separate award for community outreach.

" Today's award winners have gone beyond established operating standards in providing energy to the nation in an environmentally safe manner," said Patty Morrison, the Interior Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals . "These three companies exemplify BLM's sustainable development principles: providing resources to meet the nation's demands without compromising the needs of future generations."

The new BLM awards are similar to the existing hardrock mining awards that recognize the industrial and metallic minerals industry as well as sand and gravel operators. Awards are given in two categories: the Fluid Mineral Environmental Award and the Fluid Mineral Award for Community Outreach and Economic Security. BLM officials screened the nominations for the awards before forwarding the applications to a panel that selected the winners.

About the 2004 Winners

California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, District Four

District Four of California 's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has a history of establishing and implementing high-quality reclamation practices. In 2002, BLM California's Bakersfield Field Office signed an agreement stating that California 's Oil and Gas Division would clean up abandoned wells at the North Kern Front Unit,

which had stopped producing in 1998. With Federal and State matching funds, the Division issued a request for bids to clean up abandoned wells in the area. In two months, the selected contractors had cleaned up over 100 orphaned wells. The partnership finished in two months a project expected to take more than three years. By last fall, BLM California's Bakersfield Field Office had just a single orphaned well needing reclamation.

Merit Energy Company's Hamilton Dome Oil Field, Thermopolis, Wyoming

In 1996, Merit Energy Company bought existing wells in Wyoming 's Hamilton Dome Oil Field and started to close inactive sites. Since then, Merit has plugged 86 wells. Merit

also reclaimed these locations to pre-disturbance conditions, which included removing production facilities visible from a National Historic Site rich in rock art. Merit has excelled at providing long-term benefits to local communities and wildlife. For example, water discharged from the operation is used to irrigate alfalfa fields, water livestock, and enhance wildlife and riparian habitat. The company also implemented a program to prevent damage to wildlife, maintaining netting on production pits.

The winner in the Fluid Mineral Community Outreach and Economic Security is:

Fidelity Exploration and Production Company

Fidelity has been an exemplary operator in Montana and Wyoming 's Powder River Basin for many years. With agreements in place for each of the more than 950 wells it operates in eastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming , the company makes working with landowners a priority. Fidelity meets extensively with the ranchers, landowners, and environmental groups as well as Federal, State and local officials to discuss coal bed natural gas issues. The company protects sensitive wildlife habitat, addresses noise and dust impacts, and maintains local water quality levels. Fidelity has also committed to a three-year soil monitoring program for farmers and ranchers along the Tongue River to monitor impacts from coal bed natural gas development.

About the Awards

The Fluid Mineral Environmental Award recognizes entities that meet or exceed federal, state, or local reclamation requirements with minimal oversight.

The Fluid Mineral Award for Community Outreach and Economic Security recognizes the benefits of mineral development, with an emphasis on coordination with local and regional stakeholders. This category rewards projects that enhance the local community's quality of life and long-term health. The category also recognizes operators using innovative techniques to operate in technically challenging conditions or in sensitive environmental settings.