Good News for Desolation Canyon

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

In a unprecedented pact, a major energy company and its longtime environmental nemesis have agreed on a plan to drill for natural gas on eastern Utah’s West Tavaputs Plateau near relic-rich Nine Mile Canyon — and they did so without a lawsuit.

The compromise by Bill Barrett Corp. and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance will significantly reduce the project’s environmental impact while still allowing drillers to capture much of the natural-gas resources they sought….

Under the final EIS, Barrett and other operators plan to drill 626 wells from 120 pads, shaving the initial proposal by 181 wells and 418 pads. It also reduces surface impacts from 3,656 acres to 1,603 acres, according to the BLM….

SUWA attorney and energy-program director Stephen Bloch said the agreement marks a “hard-fought compromise” negotiated over many months that will protect federal Wilderness Study Areas as well as additional lands with wilderness qualities near picturesque Desolation Canyon.

The Vernal Express adds:

Felton said Bill Barrett Corp. has committed to additional air quality mitigation measures that will address air quality concerns. As far as the drilling project itself goes, he said officials are confident they can still recover 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the West Tavaputs field, even with the reduced number of proposed wells and well pads.

“With the knowledge we’ve gained about the field, coupled with techniques like horizontal drilling, we’re confident we can recover the same amount of natural gas while reducing the number of proposed wells and well pads by two-thirds,” he said.

The project is worth about $6.5 billion and should generate about $57 million a year for the Utah state coffers. The field is likely to continue producing for 15 to 20 years, Felton said.

I haven’t yet made it to Nine Mile, to my regret, but I’ve seen a lot of Desolation, perhaps the most under-appreciated section of Utah’s canyon country. Here are a couple shots I’ve just gotten around to processing:

Morning reflections on the Green River, Desolation Canyon, Utah, June 2010.

A high view of Desolation Canyon, from above Steer Ridge camp, July 2010.

There may also be a reprieve for Vermilion Basin, on the Colorado/Wyoming border. That’s another place I’d love to visit, if I can get there during the cooler seasons. It looks wonderful from the Irish Canyon road.

More Desolation Canyon photos here.

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