Gas Proposal Threatens Utah's Book Cliffs

The Bureau of Land Management’s Price Field Office has released a draft Environmental Impact Statement for a massive natural gas development proposal in the heart of Utah’s Book Cliffs. The draft document evaluates a plan by Bill Barrett Corporation and other operators to conduct full field development of natural gas resources on the West Tavaputs Plateau in the northeast portion of Carbon County, at the doorstep of the nation’s largest roadless area.

North of Green River, Utah, the 2,000-foot-high escarpment of the Book and Roan cliffs marks the southern perimeter of a million-acre wilderness of exceptional geographic and biological diversity. Abundant wildlife and rugged beauty have made the Book Cliffs wilderness one of Utah's most popular backcountry destinations. Each year the region’s impressive elk and mule deer draw thousands of hunters to its rugged canyons, and tens of thousands of river runners make the float trip through Desolation Canyon of the Green River annually.

The long-term development proposal now under consideration would include drilling up to 807 new natural gas wells in 538 different locations— many within BLM inventoried roadless areas found to have wilderness character. As each well has the potential to produce gas for up to  two decades, the total life of the project could be approximately 28 years. Project infrastructure would include roads and pipelines, gas compression stations and other facilities to accommodate delivery of natural gas to markets.

Potential negative impacts from the project are widespread, and include loss of roadless areas, severe impacts to critical big game and other wildlife habitat, including the endangered Sage Grouse, harmful impacts to air quality, and increased damage to the world class rock art that graces the canyon walls in Nine Mile Canyon. Often referred to as “The World’s Longest Rock Art Gallery,” Nine Mile Canyon is presently the major corridor for equipment used to develop natural gas from wells on the Tavaputs Plateau.

The public has until May 1st to submit their comments on the proposal. SUWA is urging its supporters to touch on three key issues in their comments. First, that the BLM not issue any new leases inside areas with wilderness characteristics. Second, that the BLM not allow well development inside Wilderness Study Areas or areas with wilderness characteristics, and finally that the BLM analyze and prevent further degradation of the cultural resources in Nine Mile Canyon.

 

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