The Environmental Analysis for the 16 new Fidelity well pads will make many promises or statements that relate to well safety, well location, flaring of gas, fracking of wells, and the air quality of the surrounding area. The problem with many of these types of promises or statements is that the Moab Bureau of Land Management and the oil companies have a long history of making changes as the project progresses. Many of these changes significantly affect the public’s health and welfare.
The Moab BLM told the public several years ago that the pipeline for transporting gas from the Big Flat area would meet the highest standards of a government transmission line and not the much lower standard of an oil field gathering line. This promise was broken. The BLM approved a request from the pipeline owner to remove the majority of the safety requirements from the pipeline. The BLM no longer requires continuous surveillance of the pipeline, there is no required damage prevention program, no required emergency plan, and no required investigation of pipeline failures. The pipeline changes allowed the pipeline to be built with old or obsolete material that is below federal transmission line requirements. The safety and health of the almost 1 million people that visit the area each year was not considered when the promise for a high-quality pipeline was broken.
The Moab BLM promised that all flaring of natural gas would be eliminated near Canyonlands National Park. The flaring from the wells in the Big Flat area is visible at night in Arches National Park, pollutes the air in Canyonlands National Park, and is a waste of a valuable natural resource. This promise to stop all flaring was broken in 2014, when the BLM and the oil industry agreed to stop flaring on those wells producing more than 1800 MCFs of gas. Flaring will continue for many of the wells in the Big Flat area for many years.
The oil and gas industry promised high paying jobs for many Moab residents. Instead of providing high paying jobs for local people, the industry brought in its own crews from outside the area to build the pipeline and to drill wells. The few jobs provided to Moab firms generally pay a much lower wage.
Fracking of wells was not even mentioned to the public by the BLM or the oil industry. Fracking was considered to be impossible due to salt formations in the area. At least two wells have been fracked in the Big Flat area with no oversight from the BLM on one well fracked on federal property. Fracking is expected to continue as older wells decline.
The BLM promised all spills in the Big Flat area would be cleaned up immediately and completely. However, the first clean up of a production water spill on state Route 313 last year was only half completed. The BLM after receiving public pressure and pictures of contaminated soils in the spill area finally required the cleanup crews to finish the job.
Promises were made that oil production was going to provide Grand County with several million dollars from mineral leases each year for development. However, mineral lease money is expected to decrease over 60 percent in 2015 and is far below several million dollars. Several special service districts in Grand County were foolish enough to use mineral lease money for long-term projects and may have to cut services to the public.
The public has lost all trust in the promises and statements of the BLM and the oil industry. Promises made today are all too often broken tomorrow. The EA for the Fidelity West fertilizer 16 Pad Oil and Gas Project needs to be reviewed by both Fidelity and the BLM for all items that are subject to change by the BLM as the project progresses. The BLM needs to separate promises and statements in the EA that are enforceable by federal law from those items that are subject to future change at the discretion of the local BLM management.