Feds sign off on 3,600 new gas wells in Utah; energy industry insider blasts 'broken system'

Published: Tuesday, May 8 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

"You could not start to build a (well) location based on today's decision," Ryan said.

While Ryan was critical of Tuesday's announcement, Rep. Rob Bishop offered praise for it. Then the Republican from Utah blasted the Obama administration for other oil and gas policies, such as new hydraulic "fracking" rules and cancellation of controversial energy leases several years ago.

But Salazar pointed out energy production on public land has increased 13 percent under Obama and natural gas production is at an all-time high.

SUWA said the Anadarko agreement showed how to do it.

"It's possible for these win-win solutions where the state's wildest public lands are protected while the state of Utah continues to have a robust energy sector," Steve Bloch with SUWA said.

But Ryan said there is no "win-win" in this outcome for the American public if this is how the country's domestic energy policy is going to be set.

"(Anadarko) basically gave up a huge amount of resources that will never be developed now if the environmentalists have their way," he said.

Still, Ryan said he understands why energy companies would make such deals.

"It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis," he said. "I'm enough of a business person to understand it, but unfortunately it happens all too often."

Another natural gas drilling proposal in the Desolation Canyon area by Gasco is already coming under fire by environmentalists who contend pristine wilderness areas will be ruined by drilling activity. 

Located in Uintah and Duchesne counties, Gasco's project area takes in 206,826 acres in an existing gas producing area, according to the BLM, and allows up to 1,298 new gas wells that would be drilled from 575 well pads over 15 years. The total new surface disturbance area would be an estimated 3,604 acres, or about 2 percent of the total project area, according to the BLM.

The project is headed for approval in the next few weeks.

Contributing:  Amy Joi O'Donoghue

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com, hollenhorst@desnews.com
Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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