Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A look at the after-effects of oil and gas development

High Country News has an excellent feature in its current issue, looking at answers to the title question, "Who'll clean up when the party's over?"

The article, written by April Reese, looks at the mixed -- and rare -- success of well-site reclamation, and the BLM's stepped up efforts to improve its poor record so far, following the passage of the 2005 National Energy Policy Act, which aimed to increase reclamation projects for energy development. Presently, the BLM estimates that less than 15 percent of the West's more than 15,000 gas well have been reclaimed.

The article takes a close look at the San Juan Basin, where the BLM oversees some 30,000 wells. The Basin is expected to see another 10,000 wells drilled in the next two decades.

Reese writes:

Even as the BLM struggles to clean up the past, it is racing headlong into the future. Currently, the BLM manages approximately 80,000 active wells on public lands in the West -- about 30,000 in the San Juan alone. In the next 15 to 20 years, the agency expects to permit an additional 126,000 wells, 10,000 of them in the San Juan Basin. The Wilderness Society estimates that more than a million acres will be graded, drilled or otherwise disturbed by new oil and gas development over the next two decades. When all of these wells run dry -- the average well has a lifespan of 30 years -- federal managers will have a truly massive reclamation job on their hands.
Read the entire article here.

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