Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has changed course and put his support behind a federal plan to manage oil and natural gas development on the Pinedale Anticline, which allows, among other things, up to 4,000 new wells to be drilled.

The Democratic governor earlier had voiced opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM)’s proposals to manage lands and resources in Sublette and Lincoln counties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year also had criticized BLM’s plans because of potential impacts to air quality and groundwater (see NGI, Feb. 25).

BLM issued the Pinedale resource management plan (RMP) and final environmental impact statement (EIS) in August to begin a 30-day protest period. The plans would make available about 758,180 acres for energy development (see NGI, Sept. 1). The plan evaluated “the impacts of optimizing production of oil and gas resources while providing the appropriate level of environmental protection for all competing resources,” BLM stated.

Several environmental groups criticized BLM’s proposed RMP and the EIS, and Freudenthal said the rules did not adequately address environmental or wildlife concerns. However, the governor’s office said the final rules are a big improvement over the preliminary rules.

The governor is pleased with new, more specific and clearly “regimented” provisions, a spokesman told the Jackson Hole Star Tribune. “There are improvements in this version that have been worked in that didn’t exist in earlier forms of the document…And the governor feels it now makes sense to move forward. This is better than the document approved in 2000, and it has significant gains in air emissions, water quality issues and in wildlife protections over the 2000 version.”

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