The decision by several conservation groups to appeal the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) for the Atlantic Rim Natural Gas Development Project in Carbon County, WY, has led one producer to delay plans to begin drilling there until at least August.

In May the BLM approved a final plan to allow drilling of up to 2,000 wells, most of them coalbed methane (CBM), in the Atlantic Rim area of the Rocky Mountains, which holds the potential for 1-2 Tcfe of reserves (see Daily GPI, May 22). BLM acted on a petition from Warren Resources Inc. and its joint venture partner Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to explore and potentially develop 270,080 acres in an area that runs nearly 40 miles north to south from Rawlins to Baggs, WY. BLM approved drilling for about 1,800 CBM and 200 deeper conventional wells.

Through agreements with Warren and Anadarko, independent Double Eagle Petroleum Co. also plans to drill and operate up to 268 wells on 80-are spacing on the Catalina Unit, gaining about 110 net wells. Including both operated and nonoperated properties, the Casper, WY-based independent expects to participate in up to 1,800 wells (gross) and 259 wells (net) over the next five years. Drilling was to begin in July.

However, Double Eagle said that because of the conservation groups' appeal of the BLM decision, it will delay its plans to drill in the Atlantic Rim "until at least Aug. 1, 2007. At this time, it is uncertain whether Double Eagle will be able to commence its previously planned development drilling in the near future or whether there will be a longer time period needed for the BLM and the appealing parties to resolve their differences -- either through the courts or otherwise."

Double Eagle stated that the Atlantic Rim delay "does not delay or otherwise affect" its other exploration activities, which include development in the Pinedale Anticline, South Fillmore and Cow Creek Unit Deep #2 in Wyoming, the Huntington Valley in Nevada and the Christmas Meadows prospect in northeastern Utah.

Neither Anadarko nor Warren commented on the appeals.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), a coalition of organizations working to preserve hunting and fishing areas, is among those that filed an appeal. The Atlantic Rim is a popular mule deer hunting area of the state, and it also boasts one of the two largest sage grouse breeding concentrations in Wyoming.

"The BLM is officially telling hunters that wildlife, hunting and outfitting will have to go elsewhere for at least a generation," said TRCP Energy Initiative Manager Steve Belinda. He said "wildlife and the needs of sportsmen and [sports]women are again playing second fiddle to extraction at any cost."

A coalition that includes the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Wyoming Wilderness Association, the Western Watersheds Project, the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Center for Native Ecosystems and The Wilderness Society filed a similar appeal, which was followed an appeal by the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation.

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