BLM: Moneta Divide Project Approved for 4,250 wells; One more hurdle remains

Local reaction is elation, mixed with concern

The Bureau of Land Management has approved the development of up to 4,250 oil and gas wells for the Moneta Divide Project on over 300,000 acres of mostly public lands managed by the Lander and Casper field offices. Today’s decision will facilitate yet another opportunity for responsible domestic energy production in Wyoming.  

“I appreciate all the hard work and attention put into this project,” said Duane Spencer, BLM Wyoming Acting State Director. “This team effort improves the quality of BLM analysis and helps the agency make infor\med decisions on complex projects like Moneta Divide.” 

Reaction was swift in coming from Riverton’s Economic Development Organization, IDEA, Inc. President Alan Moore said “I am elated with the good news, but I’m concerned the process is designed to kill projects. “

“The bureaucratic process leads to delay and denial and I, myself, believe it is purposely done for the people making the decisions can say no without actually having to say no,” Moore said. He noted that the project has been under review for nearly a decade. “Anytime that it takes more time than it did to defeat the Axis Powers in Europe during World War II, you know something is screwed up.”

Riverton Mayor Richard Gard said he was happy to hear the news, and he said he planned to discuss the project’s next steps with Governor Mark Gordon on Saturday. Gard noted that a critical part of developing the field is a water discharge permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ has decided to limit the amount of water that can be discharged from the field.

Even though the overall project has been approved, there’s still another hurdle to jump over before on the ground work can begin. While the Record of Decision issued today approves the Preferred Alternative analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moneta Divide Project, the decision does not authorize any on the ground activity at this time, according to theBLM’s news release. The BLM will still require review and approval for each individual well as part of its Application for Permit to Drill process.  

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The project, proposed by Aethon Energy Management and Burlington Resources Oil and Gas Company LP, is expected to recover approximately 18.16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 254 million barrels of oil over the 65-year life of the project. The project could generate approximately $182 million per year in Federal royalties, $87.5 million per year in severance taxes for the State of Wyoming, and $106 million per year in County Ad Valorem taxes.  

The BLM released the Final EIS on Feb. 21, 2020, which began a 30-day public availability period and 60-day Governor’s consistency review. The Final EIS identifies a range of alternatives and includes the agency’s preferred alternative, which was developed following extensive review and consideration of public comments received on the Draft EIS. The Preferred Alternative also includes an amendment to the Casper Resource Management Plan. 

The project area includes approximately 327,645 acres of public, state and private lands. Approximately 67 percent of the project area is on the BLM managed public lands, 10 percent is on State of Wyoming and State Parks land, and 23 percent is on private surface. The proponents plan to drill up to 4,250 new vertical, directional and horizontal wells from single and multi-well pads over a 15-year development period. 

The ROD and other project documents and maps are available online at https://go.usa.gov/xnU9z  

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