New oil and gas development presents new challenges
Editor’s note: This is the second part two-part My Side series from the White River Natural Forest addressing how the WRNF fits in the energy boom. The first part ran Jan. 31.
We are experiencing intensified energy exploration on the White River National Forest, a forest that has historically managed this use on a very small scale. However, the activity has fluctuated as a result of changing market and oil and gas company priorities. In 2002, one exploratory project for three wells was proposed on the forest. In 2003 this increased to five exploratory projects for up to 16 wells. In 2004 only two projects were proposed, however; one was for 12 wells and was more developmental in nature.
As companies become more comfortable with the results of their exploration programs, and as exploration expands to areas that previously would not have been economically viable, oil and gas companies eventually approach us with larger developmental proposals. In 2005 we received one developmental proposal for up to 52 wells.
The 2005 Energy Policy should allow us to administer and manage the increase in exploration and development in an effective and environmentally sound manner. The White River National Forest manages the surface rights of National Forest system land, and the Bureau of Land Management manages the sub-surface rights. Both agencies manage for resources such as wildlife, water, and vegetation, an important responsibility that we take very seriously.
To us locally, one of the most important parts of the Energy Policy is section 365 ” the section granting authority to implement pilot offices at seven western BLM offices, the Glenwood Springs Field Office being one of them.
The Glenwood Springs Pilot Office will include a dedicated interagency team with various areas of expertise to help efficiently and effectively manage energy exploration and development on public lands in the area. New positions will include representation from the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM and the Forest Service.
In addition to the anticipated new well activity, as the demand and corresponding price increases continue driving the market, the stimulation of older wells may be an increasing trend. The Energy Policy Act has provisions for incentives to either continue producing marginal wells or to stimulate them to increase their production and keep them producing.
The potential financial returns associated with continuing to manage older and/or marginal wells may in turn result in relatively fewer new wells being proposed, as production from such wells contributes to the overall supply. Additionally, there are incentives for the oil and gas industry to reduce ground disturbance by drilling more wells from existing well pads. These incentives could help reduce the cumulative increase in ground disturbance.
With the increased production of oil and gas, there must be increased infrastructure to transport it to other parts of the United States. The White River National Forest, the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests and the Glenwood Springs BLM are currently working with industry on its proposal to build a 20-inch diameter transmission line, the Bull Mountain Pipeline, crossing 19 miles of National Forest, BLM and private land.
There will always be new challenges where energy exploration and extraction are concerned, but we will meet these challenges with sound management, dedicated staff and a strong commitment to our mission of caring for the land and serving people. Please visit our Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/
r2/whiteriver/ for information on upcoming projects.
The Energy Policy can be viewed at http://www.blm.gov/nhp/
Maribeth Gustafson is supervisor of the White River National Forest Supervisor.
The White River National Forest is one of the largest forests in the National Forest system, managing 2.3 million acres with offices in Meeker, Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Aspen, Eagle, Minturn and Silverthorne. The White River National Forest is the number one recreation forest in the country and hosts a diversity of public uses.
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