A new Bureau of Land Management report indicates that most of the groundwater contamination near Pinedale was not caused by the energy industry.
After petroleum products showed up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field in 2006, several agencies launched an investigation to figure out where the contamination was coming from. They concluded that some pollution occurred naturally, as gas seeped upward through geologic layers and into the groundwater. The report says other pollutants came from the process of drilling and installing water wells.
Bankrupt methane farming company Luca Technologies is planning to walk away from its wells on federal lands in Wyoming without plugging them. The company and its subsidiaries have between four and five hundred wells on federal lands, and COO Brian Cree says it's unlikely there will be enough money to clean them up.
“Those wells will just be turned back over to the federal government, and the federal government will be in a position to use their resources to plug and abandon those wells," Cree says.
The head of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center says regulations for reclamation on federal land are not consistent.
Pete Stahl says different BLM field offices across the state have different requirements for reclaiming land after energy development and are inconsistent in how they monitor reclamation. He says when the BLM is evaluating reclamation success, they sometimes compare the reclaimed site to just one small area of undisturbed land, which he says is not enough for a scientific comparison.
Some environmental groups have concerns about a land use plan that the Bureau of Land Management has drafted for the Buffalo area.
Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says until now, the BLM has placed restrictions on energy development in areas that can't easily be reclaimed – for example, areas with steep slopes, or with fragile soil.
The Bureau of Land Management received a single bid at today’s/Wednesday’s coal lease sale and it has rejected that bid.
Kiewit Mining Properties bid 21-cents per ton on the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek Two tract. The tract has about 167-million tons of mineable coal and is adjacent to the Buckskin mine, which Kiewit operates.
However, the bid is the lowest the B-L-M has received since 2001.
B-L-M spokeswoman, Beverly Gorney, says ultimately the bid did not meet the B-L-M’s secret calculations of what’s considered fair market value.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Buffalo office is hoping to ensure more rigorous protections for sage grouse in the area. It’s drafted a new Resource Management Plan – or land use plan – to replace the one that’s been in place since the 1980s.
The plan outlines four alternatives. Thomas Bills with the BLM says the agency’s preferred alternative would incorporate the governor’s Core Area strategy, which limits development in prime sage grouse breeding areas.
The Bureau of Land Management will hear public feedback about the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles to round up wild horses at a meeting next month.
Wild Horse Specialist Ben Smith says the agency plans to remove nearly 600 feral horses in south-central Wyoming this year, leaving more than eleven-hundred on range land.
“The helicopter hearing is a hearing that we’re required annually to hold, to get the feedback from the public on the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles in wild horse and burro management,” says Smith.
The Bureau of Land Management has announced new restrictions on the sales of wild horses and burros.
A recent ProPublica report alleged that thousands of wild horses bought from the BLM were sold to be slaughtered in Mexico.
Previously, buyers were permitted to buy an unlimited number of horses, but now a buyer can only purchase four horses or burros every six months. They must keep the animals for at least six months, describe where they’ll live, and provide safe transportation.
Peabody Energy has been awarded a coal lease sale by the Bureau of Land Management for roughly $793-million. The tract is located in the Powder River Basin, and Peabody paid about a $1.10 per ton of coal, of which 721 million tons are estimated to be mineable.
Governor Matt Mead says the sale will be good for the state.
“It’s just short of 800 million dollars, which means over a course of about five years, Wyoming will get a little less than 400 million dollars from that sale,” says Mead.
The BLM has drafted an Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed uranium mine near Rawlins. The project would stretch over more than 4,000 acres of land and would use in-situ technology, where they inject fluid into the ground to extract the uranium and then bring it to the surface to process.
Dennis Carpenter, the BLM’s Rawlins Field Manager, says the project doesn’t raise many concerns.
“It’s a pretty small project by most of our standards,” Carpenter said, adding that the area has been mined in the past.
The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to keep hundreds of wild horses at a private ranch near Laramie. The BLM removes hundreds of horses from public lands each year to prevent the range from getting over-crowded, and they usually send the horses to long-term pastures in the mid-west.
Dennis Carpenter is the BLM’s Field Manager in Rawlins. He says keeping the horses here should be slightly cheaper, because the ranch will be open to tourists – for a fee.
The Bureau of Land Management has drastically cut the amount of land it plans to open up for oil shale and tar sands development in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.
The BLM’s 2008 environmental impact statement would have allowed 2 million acres to be open for Oil Shale Research, Development, and Demonstration Leases.
Conservation groups joined to sue the BLM for endangering wilderness lands and core sage-grouse habitat, and reached a settlement last year. As a result of that settlement the BLM released a new plan Friday that would open up only 461,000 acres to RD&D leases.
As the Bureau of Land Management begins to offer greater protections for Sage Grouse, those in the conservation community are welcoming the news. Steve Holmer with the American Bird Conservancy says with the Sage Grouse listed as a candidate for Endangered Species Act Protection the new approach is overdue.
Holmer-"You know, I think to their credit, BLM is trying to get ahead of this issue. We’re pleased to see the BLM adopt this strategy – they’re on the right track."