You can see the Bill Barrett Corp. ads on the television or hear them on the radio, advocating for the company's plan to drill 800 wells in eight years as part of its West Tavaputs Natural Gas Field project.
The company has also dedicated the Web site, tavaputs.com, to airing its side of the story and the benefits and impacts that all its drilling will have.
"We want people to understand there are benefits to the state of Utah with that project," said Duane Zavadil, vice president over regulatory and government affairs for Barrett. "It's a political world we live in. ... We're just going straight to the people of Utah regarding our message and the benefits of this project."
Zavadil said those who have sued Barrett over this project and other drilling efforts in the West are often funded by interests that end up coming from either coast and not from within Utah.
The project's detractors, he added, will probably be putting out messages of their own leading up to the Bureau of Land Management's release soon of an environmental impact statement for the project. He said a lot of misinformation put out by critics, if successful in their efforts, could cost Utah jobs and a huge investment in the state by Colorado-based Barrett. Ultimately, foiled efforts to follow through on the Tavaputs project could mean higher natural gas prices for Utah in the future, Zavadil said.
For critics of the company's plans, one big issue has been the effect of dust control or a lack of it on valuable outdoor panels of Indian rock art in Nine Mile Canyon from industrial activity already taking place in the canyon.
Photographs by watchdogs show big trucks stirring up clouds of dust just feet away from the panels of petroglyphs. The company posted on its Web site two photos that show no dusty disturbances as a truck travels one of the canyon roads.
"They're trying to convince the public that they are the good guy and that we need virtually all of their gas out there," said Steve Tanner, chairman of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition's impact research committee. He said the Web site is not painting a picture of what the real problem is dust control and that the dust issue is getting swept under the regulatory rug.
Tanner said the company is trying to sway state lawmakers and Utah's congressional delegation at a critical time in the approval process.
There is a "Take Action" link on the Barrett Web site with contact information for every legislator and Utah congressman and a link to a sample letter that people can use to voice their opinions. Part of the letter reads, "In my opinion, it could be devastating to both Emery and Carbon counties as well as the entire state of Utah if the West Tavaputs gas drilling operations were not allowed to move forward as planned."
Tanner also accused the company of lying about damage to archaeological resources. He said he'll continue to challenge Barrett's proposal in ongoing court proceedings.
In the meantime, Barrett officials want the public to know their plan to drill 800 wells fits with a need to pursue Utah's energy needs. They say on their Web site that, as the BLM considers giving full approval to the drilling plan, people need to understand "how much it means" to Utah.
Barrett says there is "no net impact" on archaeological cultural sites, adding the company has so far spent $2 million to protect cultural resources, realign roads and to control dust. The company is committed to a "stop work" requirement if cultural artifacts are found during earth work activities. The company also cites a "no net impact" on dust-control efforts, detailing all of its efforts to keep dust down, which includes using a controversial chemical that critics say does not break down easily and poses an additional threat to the canyon's famed rock art.Several state and national environmental and preservation groups and even the federal Environmental Protection Agency have all expressed concern about the project's potential impact on wildlife, habitat and cultural resources in and around the area of where drilling would take place.
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