A major oil and gas project has taken a step forward with the end of its public comment period last week. The 5,000 well project covers over 1.5 million acres in Converse County, and received 110 comments following the release of its draft environmental impact statement, or EIS.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America, IPAA, submitted comments on March 9. The organization said the project would be a huge economic benefit to both the state and federal government given much of the drilling would use federal resources. According to the draft EIS, employment from this project area could reach nearly 8,500 jobs in its tenth year (pg. 127/328). The IPAA added horizontal drilling limits habitat fragmentation and surface disturbance.
Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legal affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, though, said he's worried about the project’s contribution to methane emissions especially given a recent action by the Department of the Interior. DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke is in the process of rolling back an Obama-era methane regulation.
"If we allow this huge development to go forward without sensible requirements in place to capture as much of that methane, natural gas as possible, it’s going to be a problem for state and county budgets,” Goldstein said.
That’s because leak detection keeps gas out of the air and in the pipelines. Goldstein said it's critical for state revenue and the state’s air quality to limit venting, flaring and leaks before the project moves forward. He said the federal or state government could both work towards better protections.