Sublette County Conservation District expresses concerns over proposed changes in groundwater monitoring for PAPA
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
January 20, 2015
The Sublette County Conservation District were asked to meet with the Sublette County Commissioners on Tuesday, January 20th. They expressed concern about proposed changes to the BLMís groundwater monitoring plan for the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) natural gas field. The new plan recommends doing away with a number of the groundwater well sampling sites that the District has been monitoring and doing water quality analysis on for nearly a decade on the operator's behalf.
Eric Peterson, District Manager; Delsa Allen, Groundwater Program Manager; and Darrell Walker, Board Chairman all appeared before the Commissioners to voice their concerns. Peterson explained that the new monitoring program proposes to abandon the sampling of most of the 80+ industrial wells and 100+ domestic and stock water wells near and within the PAPA. The proposal states that those wells would be replaced with a network of 41 wells, including 20 new ones. Peterson said to drop all but 17 of the wells they have been sampling for nearly a decade and have great baseline data for in exchange for 20 new ones with no baseline data history, was not a Best Management Practice and seemed odd. The consultant who worked on the new monitoring program apparently feels the wells that are proposed to be dropped arenít needed and the new monitoring well grid would be adequate to catch potential contaminant plume spread based on their groundwater flow models.
The Commissioners wondered why the Sublette County Conservation District staff that has been doing the operator's groundwater quality monitoring on the PAPA for nearly ten years wasnít included in the development process of drafting the proposed new groundwater monitoring plan? The Conservation District didnít know the answer to that and said they were baffled by it as well. Peterson said, "Abandonment of the existing water quality data set is alarming from our point of view." Commissioner Jim Latta said based on earlier conversations that day, he believed it wasnít intentional that the Conservation District was excluded and that things could be cleared up with some dialog with the BLM, gasfield operators, and their environmental consultant-NewFields Mining, Energy, and Environmental Services LLC (NewFields).
Besides the proposed changes in the actual monitoring program, the Conservation District was also concerned that the public had not been given adequate notification by the BLM of the open public comment period. The BLM apparently issued a media release on December 23, 2014. However, for unknown reasons the press release was not received by the two local newspapers or Pinedale Online and the notice wasnít advertised. The Conservation District asked Pinedale Online on January 8th if media had received the notice in response to the rapidly approaching January 23rd comment period deadline. Pinedale Online got the notice posted on January 8th. Public notices were published in the Pinedale Roundup on January 16th and in the Sublette Examiner on January 20th. After raising concerns with the Bureau of Land Management that the public wasnít given enough notice to review the document and submit comments, the BLM agreed and on January 20th extended the comment period to February 6th.
The Commissioners expressed concern over about casting away all the data that has been gathered for so many years and starting over with a bunch of new monitoring wells with no baseline data history. The Commissioners said they strongly supported the Conservation Districtís efforts to stay on top of water quality. The Commissioners recommended the Conservation District staff talk with the PAPA natural gas operators, their water quality program contractor, and the BLM about these concerns and determine what the threats are if groundwater monitoring wells are dropped from the program into the future. They asked to be kept informed on the matter.
The Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) Draft Groundwater Pollution Prevention, Monitoring and Response Action Plan can be found at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/field_offices/Pinedale/anticline/water.html. A hardcopy of the complete document can be viewed at the BLM offices at 1625 W. Pine St. in Pinedale and a copy of the text without appendices can be found at the Pinedale Public Library.
Public comments will now be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on February 6, 2015. Written comments may be mailed or delivered to the BLM Pinedale Field Office, 1625 W. Pine St., P.O. Box 768, Pinedale, WY 82941; or emailed to email@example.com. If you have any questions, please contact Janet Bellis at 307-367-5316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.