Activists decry drilling plan
Environmentalists are taking issue with the Bureau of Land Management’s finding that a plan to drill more than 300 wells on the border of Garfield and Rio Blanco counties will create no significant environmental impact.The Colorado Environmental Coalition and Colorado Wilderness Network say the BLM should have conducted more environmental study on a plan EnCana Oil & Gas submitted for the Piceance Basin’s Figure Four federal unit, an area which roughly resembles the numeral 4.The land, southwest of Meeker and northwest of Parachute, totals 17,385 acres. About half of the property is in each county.The BLM last week announced its approval of the plan, which could result in EnCana drilling 327 wells from 120 pads over the next three to four years. The plan allows long-term disturbance of 480 acres and includes 33 miles of new roads. It would result in about 71 miles of pipelines being built. In a prepared statement, environmentalists said they don’t oppose the drilling, but want to make sure it adheres to federal environmental laws.”The BLM is saying that hundreds of new wells and miles of roads do not create a significant disturbance to the landscape, wildlife migration routes and habitat, and other public resources. We think it will,” said Pete Kolbenschlag, Western Slope field director with the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “There are a few good steps taken by the BLM in planning for this project, but overall the analysis and proposed mitigations are insufficient.”Environmentalists said the drilling plan includes positive aspects, including some clustering of wells and directional drilling, which involves drilling multiple wells from the same well pad. But they say gas development of the scale being planned deserves heightened attention from the agency.BLM spokesman Steven Hall said he thinks that if members of the general public look at the environmental assessment on the drilling plan, they would conclude the agency took a long and thoughtful look at it.