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Dozens hear plans for Moneta Divide oil and gas project

Feb 20, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

At least 47 residents spent Valentine's Day talking about natural gas and its ramifications for jobs, taxes, water and air in Fremont County. They 47 attended a public scoping meeting for the proposed Moneta Divide oil and natural gas play. The day before, 49 attended the open house-style gathering in Lander, and 39 went to one in Casper on Feb. 12.

The Bureau of Land Management, Encana and Conoco-Phillips hosted the meetings to gather input about the proposed 4,250-well, hydraulic fracturing development on 265,000 acres in Fremont and Natrona counties.

A dozen BLM staff, several energy company representatives and the BLM's contractors were on hand at the Riverton meeting to answer questions with the help of posters and other displays.

Jim Miles of Riverton was excited about the development.

"Let's go," he said.

Miles owns mineral rights to 1,200 acres in the project area, and they are leased for drilling.

"I'm glad to see it go, because there's no drilling to speak of," he said. "I'd like to see them get started."

Three-year process

The project is at the beginning of a three-year permitting process. Following the National Environmental Policy Act, the scoping period allows the public to learn about the project, comment on it and identify issues for the BLM to analyze.

Eric Donelson, who lives near Shoshoni, was also happy about the project after speaking with BLM and energy company staff.

"The jobs and tax dollars will be phenomenal for our county," he said. "If anyone was concerned about the water or wildlife management, they've already got an answer."

The project area starts about 10 miles east of Shoshoni and surrounds Lysite. The development includes a pipeline that would run south through Jeffrey City to Wamsutter.

"These people will have a job for 10 to 15 years and be home every night," Donelson said.

Fracking questions

Jeff Locker and John Fenton from the Pavillion area said they have dealt with issues from hydraulic fracturing had some concerns about the project.

"I'm not here to raise the red flag," Locker said, "but there's some issues they'll have to address."

The men said they had not spoken with all the professionals on hand yet but were going around the room learning about the play.

Poison and Badwater creeks run through the play for about 30 miles before emptying into Boysen Reservoir. The BLM has proposed treating water before discharging it into the local lake.

"I'm really concerned; how can they treat it if they can't treat the water well enough for us to drink it?" Locker said, referring to Pavillion area residents.

Fenton added that contamination of the creeks could affect

agriculture, which also uses Boysen's water, and eventually flows through the Mississippi to the ocean, leading to larger concerns if drilling contaminates Poison and Badwater.

With a project this big, "if they have air quality problems, it could affect the whole region," Fenton added.

Drilling around Poison and Badwater creeks also worried Riverton land surveyor Dick Inberg, but he had confidence in the permitting process.

"I'm sure that's being addressed," he said. "Part of that Environmental Impact Statement is that concern. It's a good project. It's a good place for it."

The public scoping period runs through March 4. Those interested can submit comments by e-mail to BLM_WY_LD_Moneta_Divide_EIS@blm.gov, fax to 332-8444 or mail to the BLM's Lander Field Office at 1335 Main St., Lander, WY 82520.

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