On July 7, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office released its preferred plan for environmentally responsible oil and gas development in the Bull Mountain Unit, located in the upper North Fork Valley near Paonia, while addressing potential resource impacts and the public's concerns.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzed SG Interests I, Ltd's (SGI's) Master Development Plan (MDP) proposal, and identified a preferred alternative to develop up to 146 natural gas wells, four water disposal wells, and associated access roads and pipelines. The proposed Bull Mountain Unit Master Development Plan area covers about 19,670 acres of primarily private lands northeast of Paonia.
"The Master Development Plan allows the BLM to determine the best way for SGI to develop oil and gas resources within their existing federally-approved Bull Mountain Unit in a manner that considers other important resource values and ensures appropriate mitigation is applied," said Barbara Sharrow, BLM acting southwest district manager. "The MDP will give us more flexibility to manage development and minimize and mitigate impacts than we could on a permit-by-permit basis."
Resource impacts and public concerns are addressed through a suite of conditions of approval, best management practices, and mitigation measures to avoid, minimize, and reduce potential impacts to the environment. Additionally, a Wildlife Habitat Plan is included in the preferred alternative to address wildlife habitat.
All wells within the MDP share common design elements and mitigation for drill pads, wells, pipelines, roads and compressor stations. If the plan is approved, one Application for Permit to Drill (APD) that accounts for site-specific features of the area and was analyzed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act could be approved. Any subsequent APDs would require additional NEPA analysis.
During the drilling phase, the project could generate up to $100 million in employment income and about 470 jobs annually, while the production phase could generate up to $14 million in employment income and about 135 jobs on a yearly basis, according to the analysis in the plan.
To review the final EIS and associated documents, go to www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Infor
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Delta County Board of Commissioners called a special meeting to consider the board's response to the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the lease parcels proposed for the December BLM sale.
Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.