Rendezvous for the Wyoming Range
by Citizens for the Wyoming Range media release
August 22, 2011
Standing before a crowd of more than 250 at the Rendezvous for the Wyoming Range, former Gov. Dave Freudenthal encouraged those opposed to the 136-well natural gas drilling proposal in the Upper Hoback Basin, telling them to "keep the faith."
Freudenthal was the guest speaker at the community gathering hosted by rancher J.J. Healy and attended by hunters, energy workers, concerned citizens and staff from the offices Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Sen. John Barrasso and Gov. Matt Mead.
Recalling his work to help pass the 2009 Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which protected approximately 1.2 million acres of national forest lands from future oil and gas leasing, Freudenthal urged the crowd to keep pushing to protect Wyoming's special places.
"We have to till the fields, sow the seeds, so that someday we'll be able to harvest the preservation of great parts of this country," said Freudenthal. "Remember this country is an amazing place and America is filled with amazing people, but we have to keep our eye on the ball and that is there are places where we have economic activity, there are places where we don't. And where we have economic activity we can make sure that it's done right to preserve the kind of lifestyle that we want. But you've got to be vigilant. Hang in there. Don't give up."
Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP) hoped to move forward with its proposal following a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and public comment period, which ended this past March. The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) expected the public to submit around 15,000 comments. But PXP's proposal drew a record-setting 59,200 public comments, and many raised serious concerns about how PXP's proposal threatens wildlife habitat along with air and water quality.
"We knew it would generate a lot of response. We had no idea it would generate as much response as it did," said BTNF Supervisor Jacque Buchanan. "That speaks volumes to what this project means to all of you. We had letters from folks across Wyoming. It's a good thing that we got that number in response because that really will help me get to a better place and hopefully to a good decision on how to move forward. And let me mention that is the largest number of comments that we've ever received on the B-T for any project. Again that's a pretty significant number."
Buchanan said PXP's drilling proposal now has "a new timeline" and that in addition to ongoing wildlife and water quality concerns, "when we talk about air quality, we still have quite a bit of work I think left to do with thatů It's still a lot of work. There are a lot of new things on the table."
And those things-including strict lease stipulations that drastically curtail potential development-raise the possibility of the Forest Service sending PXP's drilling plan back to the drawing board by requiring a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, said Buchanan.
"Jacque has a tough job and I truly believe she wants to do the right thing," said Carl Bennett, a trona mine worker from Rock Springs, who came away impressed with the, "Good show of support. This particular event and what's going on with PXP vs. the people. We're dead set against them drilling in that area."
Citizens for the Wyoming Range is not opposed to energy development, said spokesperson Dan Smitherman, and that's one reason so many different kinds of people came to the Rendezvous. "Bottom line is this is a prime example of how deep the support for this issue runs," said Smitherman.