Gasco Energy, Inc. (NYSE Amex: GSX) ("Gasco" or the "Company") announced today that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has signed the Record of Decision on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that authorizes development of Gasco's Uinta Basin field in Duchesne, and Uintah Counties in Utah. This field includes Gasco's core Riverbend Project.
With this decision, Gasco has demonstrated its ability to meet the strict federal regulatory requirements of multiple agencies that reviewed the company's proposal. The BLM's decision is further evidence of Gasco's expertise in safely and responsibly developing natural resources for the benefit of American consumers.
"This is the culmination of eight years of work and substantial effort from our team, the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and the Environmental Protection Agency, to responsibly develop the energy resources within this field," Gasco Chief Executive Officer and President W. King Grant said. "We have enjoyed a very collaborative and successful working relationship with all of the federal agencies involved, as well as state, county and local government stakeholders."
BLM confirmed, "The final plan approved today reduces surface disturbance, eliminates floodplain impacts, protects the viewshed for Green River, Desolation Canyon, and Nine-Mile Canyon, and reduces impacts to water, soil and air quality." BLM Utah State Director Juan Palma noted that "Today's announcement is a prime example of the successful collaboration among the BLM, Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Uinta and Duchesne Counties."
The Environmental Protection Agency supports Gasco's project and stated in an article published by Bloomberg on March 16, 2012 that: "We worked closely together to address environmental and public-health impacts and believe the final environmental impact statement addresses them well," the EPA said in an e-mail. "The Gasco Project is a good example of a domestic energy development project that will go forward with vital safeguards to control pollution."
Gasco's project will tap an existing gas field that already has 135 producing wells and extensive infrastructure, pipelines, and roads. Gasco will also continue to explore for oil and gas in other areas within the project area. Gasco believes this further exploration and development of the field could yield nearly three trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas through 2053.
The project area is located primarily on 177,644 acres of BLM-administered lands. Development of these resources will bring secure, domestic energy to American consumers while creating 2,710 jobs and $613 million in economic activity annually, according to a recent study prepared for the Western Energy Alliance.
As a result of a collaborative process among federal, state, local and tribal governments, Gasco and the Utah conservation community, BLM altered the boundaries of the project to further protect the resources associated with the Green River and Nine Mile Canyon. Gasco agreed to this change to further protect the valuable wild and scenic values along the Green River and the downstream Desolation Canyon.
The BLM's approval follows an extensive review that considered and incorporated feedback from outside groups. In response to comments submitted by EPA and other stakeholders, BLM developed a preferred alternative – known as "Alternative F" – that, among other steps, reduces the project's scale to 1,298 wells from the 1,491 originally proposed by Gasco. According to the EPA, this plan "substantially reduces potential impacts to air quality and water resources" by adding "vital environmental safeguards" to the project.
"We realize that there is concern and a misperception by some that Gasco's project area is within close proximity to Desolation Canyon," Mr. Grant said. "In fact, our project area is six miles from the northern edge of Desolation Canyon. Gasco appreciates that the Green River is a popular river rafting location, and it specifically removed all wells that would be visible from the Green River viewshed. Gasco is committed to responsible development and environmental stewardship throughout implementation of the project.
"Today's decision is a milestone, but it does not represent an endpoint in our dialogue with our stakeholders," Mr. Grant said. "We stand ready to answer questions and work collaboratively with all who share our goal of balancing prudent energy development with common-sense environmental stewardship."