Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal Wednesday said he was encouraged by the deal that Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) reached with two interest groups to retire nearly half of the independent producer's gas drilling lease acreage in the Wyoming Range.

"I appreciate that a couple of years ago when I expressed my concerns with their plans for exploratory drilling, PXP went back and took a more detailed look. Given the location of this project, great care needs to be taken to ensure that while PXP is exercising its right to develop these leases, the environment of the Wyoming Range is protected," Freudenthal said.

The deal calls for Plains Exploration to retire 28,000 acres of its federal mineral leases within the Bridger-Teton Forest in western Wyoming. It would allow the Houston-based producer to drill 136 wells from 17 pads. In addition to this, Plains Exploration has agreed to provide $6 million in funding for habitat projects, wildlife studies, and air and water quality monitoring over the life of the project.

Plains Exploration reached the conservation agreement with the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association and Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife; it will need the approval of the U.S. Forest Service.

"This is a good first step and I hope that the Forest Service looks at it closely as we will be," Freudenthal said.

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