SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed 25-mile network of gathering lines to carry the captured natural gas from existing or new oil wells is up for public review in what promises to be another controversy between environmentalists and industry.
Tension has continued to dominate the interplay among Grand County officials, Fidelity Exploration and Production Co., and environmental groups over the uptick in industry activity on lands adjacent to prime red rock recreation spots outside Moab.
Fidelity wants to put in 25.3 miles of connector lines to its main Dead Horse Lateral Pipeline that is being installed to capture natural gas that was being flared off. Authorities estimate that 456 million cubic feet of natural gas was lost in 2013 from flaring in the Big Flat oil field, or enough gas to supply 236,000 homes.
A draft environmental analysis has been prepared and released by the Bureau of Land Management on the network of proposed collector lines, of which 22.5 miles will be buried and the remainder above ground.
The lines will ultimately help to convey the gas to the main Dead Horse Lateral Pipeline, which will carry it to a new natural gas processing plant near Blue Hills Road off U.S. 191.
Groups such as the Sierra Club have fought against the Dead Horse Pipeline, citing safety concerns and its proximity to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park, and raising objections over the manner and extent of regulation.
The collector lines are in support of the existing or possibly new 19 wells in the oil field, where horizontal drilling has liberated reserves of oil and breathed new life into government-issued leases from more than five decades ago.
The project also involves the construction of a new road that would run for about a mile to support tanker trucks and other industry-related traffic. The BLM says the new road would allow the truck traffic to bypass the Horse Thief Campground and reduce conflict between outdoor enthusiasts and industry activity.
Environmental groups that include the Sierra Club and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are trying to stave off any future drilling or potash mining in the area and pushing for the creation of the Greater Canyonlands National Monument — a proposal involving 1.8 million acres that would halt resource extraction.
At the same time, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is cobbling together a public lands initiative that includes both wilderness designations and carving out lands where grazing, drilling and mining are most suitable. Thrown in that mix for Bishop's effort — dubbed the "Grand Bargain" — is land-use planning that also puts in protections with recreation uses in mind.
On this latest turn of industry activity in the Grand County area, the BLM is accepting written comments via letter or email until Aug. 27 on the proposed collector lines. The agency is advising that the most useful comments are those that contain new technical or scientific information.
Written comments may be mailed or emailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Moab Field Office, Attn: Gathering Line, 82 E. Dogwood Ave., Moab, Utah 84532, or firstname.lastname@example.org.