The federal government wants to allow gas companies to drill nearly 40,000 new coalbed methane wells in Wyoming's Powder River Basin over the next 10 years. That many wells would quadruple the number currently in Wyoming and increase the nationwide tally by almost 70 percent.
is outlined in the draft Powder River Basin Environmental Impact
Statement recently released by the Bureau of Land Management. In
its study, the Bureau recommends that the water from the wells be
discharged untreated after it is pumped to the surface by
methane-powered compressors. The agency says this process is
relatively cheap and disturbs a comparatively small surface
Measures would be taken to mitigate damage
to ground and surface water, vegetation, wildlife and aquatic
species, says Paul Beels, the Bureau's project manager for the
Environmental groups are not impressed.
Jill Morrison, an organizer with the Powder River Basin Resource
Council, calls the study "a huge disappointment." The group wants
gas companies to reinject or treat the pumped water, phase the
development of wells, drill only one coal seam at a time, and work
more closely with surface owners.
The public has
until April 18 to comment on the plan. The Bureau plans to release
a final EIS by early August.
To view the EIS
online, visit www.prb-eis.org. Paper copies are no longer
available, but CDs can be requested from Paul Beels at
307/684-1100. To submit comments, write to BLM Field Office, 1425
Fort St., Buffalo, WY 82834 attn: Paul Beels.