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BLM Assessing Impact of Oil Spill on Federal Land

Federal and state officials in Utah on Friday were still trying to determine exactly how much oil leaked and what environmental damage has been done, after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was notified early Wednesday of a conventional oil well that failed near Green River, UT, about 182 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

BLM dispatched technical staff that were met by officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality after a small Utah-based company, SW Energy LLC, and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining notified the BLM of the Salt Wash field spill.

The spill, which the BLM believes reached a peak of 80-100 bbl per hour, was contained late Thursday with equipment and backup berms in place to slow and capture oil and fluids. It remains unclear what caused the spill, but SW mobilized a well service contractor to repair a failed valve and shut in the well, BLM said.

Much of the oil and fluid that spilled has been recovered by vacuum trucks and transported to a disposal facility.

"The BLM is taking this matter very seriously. We are working cooperatively with SW Energy, the state and EPA to assess the extent of the spill and will work on assessing impacts to natural resources," said BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma. "We were able to catch this incident and act quickly to contain the leak and minimize the potential impacts to the environment."

The spill comes less than two weeks after the Government Accountability Office released a report that found the BLM is falling short on managing and overseeing oil and natural gas development across the 245 million acres of public land under its care (see Shale Daily, May 12). The GAO found that the agency is failing to inspect thousands of wells that may pose a threat to the environment.

Shortly after the report, the BLM responded by saying its efficiency has been undermined by budget constraints. It has asked Congress to approve a request that would earmark $10 million raised from fees charged to oil and natural gas companies to cover the expense of high-priority inspections (see Shale Daily, May 15).

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