Drilling in Utah natural gas field gets feds’ OK

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal officials announced Thursday that drilling could soon begin on a natural gas project in eastern Utah that could include nearly 3,700 wells, create thousands of jobs and increase concerns about dangerous levels of air pollution.

To alleviate the negative impacts on air quality in the Uinta Basin, Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. will have to significantly limit pollution emissions, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during a conference call with reporters.

The proposed emission standards, surface impacts and other regulations for the project in the Greater Natural Buttes area are included in a draft environmental impact study being published Friday in the Federal Register. Public comment on the proposal will be accepted for 45 days.

If final approval is granted, Salazar said the project could yield 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The impacted area covers about 250 square miles near the Colorado border, although it is estimated that only about 5 percent of that land will be disturbed.

Officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency worked with Anadarko to minimize the impacts of the project, which was first proposed in 2006, Salazar said. While the air quality during the winter in the Uinta Basin “is some of the worst in the country,” he said moving the project forward is important.

“We have to find sensible ways of allowing natural gas development to move forward, while at the same time protecting air quality,” Salazar said.


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