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Wyoming Governor Urges BLM to OK 3,500 NatGas Wells

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has urged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to approve by year-end a proposed natural gas drilling project that could include up to 3,500 new wells with ultimate production of several trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas.

In energy strategies drafted by Mead's administration in 2013 and 2016, Wyoming set a goal of getting three federal environmental impact statements (EIS) completed on major energy projects, including the Normally Pressured Lance (NPL) natural gas projects, which the governor cited as having the potential of producing up to 5 Tcf of supplies and creating 700 new jobs.

Noting that BLM has been studying the project since 2011, Mead said in a letter to the agency field office in Pinedale, WY, that he wants the project to "start in a timely manner." He called for a BLM Record of Decision (ROD) by the end of this year "to avoid further costly delays that negatively affect the state's economic prosperity."

Mead said the project is significant for the state, calling oil/gas project permitting "a priority and NPL is a great opportunity."

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) echoed Mead’s request for an ROD, noting the NPL project is consistent with federal/state laws and policy, with the potential for "significant positive impacts to state/local economies."

PAW Vice President for Public Lands Esther Wagner said the project checks out on all fronts. "BLM must issue an ROD as soon as possible," Wagner told BLM's Pinedale office.

Mead said he is concerned that BLM's draft EIS deviates too much from Wyoming's strategy for managing the greater sage grouse. The federal draft contemplates noise restrictions outside core areas and the creation of "a new sage grouse habitat not recognized in my executive order," he said.

Mead urged BLM to "use Wyoming's Revised Compensatory Mitigation Framework," saying it should be the main tool used to determine if the mitigation process is needed, "and if so, how much."

Mead also called attention to the Continental Divide-Creston gas drilling project, which would be the largest in Wyoming, adding nearly 9,000 new wells on more than 6,100 well pads in Carbon and Sweetwater counties. BLM completed the project's ROD last September.

Three other large oil/gas projects in the state also are undergoing federal review, including the Converse County, Greater Crossbow and Moneta Divide projects.

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