Energy policy — oil and gas: Gothic shale play in the Paradox Basin has conservationists organizing early to, ‘do it right’

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From The Durango Telegraph (Missy Votel):

This week, the San Juan Public Lands Center released a draft environmental impact statement on what is expected to be the next hot spot for oil and gas development in Southwest Colorado. Known as the Gothic Shale Gas Play, the 646,403-acre area located primarily within Montezuma, Dolores and San Miguel counties (with a small sliver of La Plata County) could be home to nearly 3,000 new wells over the next 15 years. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands make up 57 percent of the area, with Paradox Basin and the Dolores River Corridor at the epicenter, accounting for nearly 1,800 of the potential wells.

“It’s a really big deal,” said Jimbo Buickerood, of the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “There are huge resource values that we are concerned about and we know the citizenry is concerned about.”

The gothic shale EIS is actually a supplement to the 2007 San Juan Public Lands Center Draft Land Management Plan, which is undergoing its first major revision since 1985. The 2007 EIS projected only 1,185 new coalbed methane wells for the entire San Juan Lands planning area, much of them overlapping the general area of the Gothic Shale Play. However, the original EIS did not account for the potential of tapping into the thin shale underlayer, which has recently become possible due to technological advances. As a result, land managers went back to the drawing board to revise numbers, adding a possible 1,769 new shale wells to the area on both federal and nonfederal lands…

Of the four suggested alternatives4 (including the requisite “do nothing,”) preferred Alternative B recommends 776 new wells on federal lands, 250 miles of new roads and a disturbance of 2,592 acres. According to the EIS, half of the area is classified as “working forest and rangelands” and has a history of multiple use, including timber harvest, mining, grazing, recreation, and oil and gas development. However, Buickerood said there is concern some development could encroach on the Dolores River, which has been identified as a candidate for Wild and Scenic River status.

“We aren’t saying ‘no natural gas drilling.’ We’re saying ‘Let’s do it right, and here are some ideas,’” said Buickerood, who is heading up a response to the EIS on behalf of several local conservation groups. “The three main factors we’re concerned with are: how many wells, over what area and over what period of time.”[…]

Another major concern is water. Millions of gallons are required to drill a well and in the fracking process. Although some can be re-used, a plan for proper treatment and disposal of the waste water will be needed. The question of where the water will come from for drilling operations is another consideration. Bill Barrett currently pulls water earmarked for municipal and industrial use from the Dolores River Project.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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