Opinions abound at energy meeting

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A public scoping meeting held by the Bureau of Land Management is one of the first steps in a process to create an Environmental Impact Statement before drilling rigs are allowed to roll into an area to find oil and gas deposits.

Wednesday's open house at the Little Snake River Field Office in Craig allowed residents to express their concerns, but wells already have been in the area for nearly 80 years.

The Hiawatha oil and gas field was discovered in 1927, and the Powderwash area was first drilled in 1931.

The Hiawatha project started in 1929 and was known as Mount Fuel Supply Company in 1935 -- a name it kept until being bought by Questar in 1985.

The company's most recent request was to drill deeper wells.

Early wells drilled from 3,000 to 8,000 feet were productive, but the search for natural gas has led to wells now reaching to 14,000 feet, said Vincent Rigatti, general manager for Questar's Legacy Division.

There are currently 12 deep wells that are producing in the Hiawatha area.

Questar is asking to drill 4,207 new wells, 1,400 of them in Moffat County, in the next 30 years.

"It takes 20 to 30 years to accomplish a project of this size," Rigatti said.

Among the crowd of BLM and Questar employees were residents hoping to get their concerns addressed.

Dr. Allan Reishus was present, talking with BLM officials about issues he would like to see addressed.

"I want to see the area stay the same or improve, as far as wildlife is concerned," Reishus said. "I'm an avid sportsman. I enjoy hunting and outdoor activities. I'm concerned about the BLM ignoring water and other issues that are taking a backseat to energy development."

Reishus said he would like to see things slow down a bit, as well as more conservation of resources in the area.

That's exactly why scoping meetings are held, BLM public affairs specialist David Boyd said.

"We're here to identify the issues and take comments before the Environmental Impact State--ment draft comes out next fall," he said.

A presentation by Susan Davis, project leader for the BLM, covering well pad size and pipelines required in the area left some residents with concerns about reclamation and clean-up after the project is finished.

"I'm concerned that hunters will lose opportunities out there. Have you seen any reclamation by Rifle?" said Rick Hammel, of Craig. "Even now in Hiawatha, reclamation is not what it should be. Fourteen hundred wells times six acres for each pad? That's a lot of ground."

BLM land is multiple-use land, Boyd pointed out. The company tries to reach a balance between oil and gas interests, mining, recreation and wilderness concerns.

Today, the public is invited to speak at a scoping meeting for the Hiawatha project in Rock Springs, Wyo. The 45-day public scoping period ends Oct. 20.

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