EARTHWORKS

EARTHWORKS supports the Open Space Pilot Project in northwestern New Mexico. And so should you.

Gwen Lachelt's avatar
By Gwen Lachelt

June 11, 2010

Last week we sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar and President Obama in support of the Open Space Pilot Project, a unique public/private collaboration to bring innovative oil and gas development practices to northwestern New Mexico.  

In the past few years we have been following the progress of a new approach to drilling on the Devil s Spring Ranch in the San Juan Basin, which sits on top of one of North America s largest reserves of natural gas. Don and Jane Schreiber, the resident owners, were watching their ranch disappear  one well at a time. The Schreiber s were determined that better practices would not only help preserve the integrity and character of their ranch but also serve as a model for other regions of the country facing full-field oil and gas development.  

The Open Space Pilot Project (OSPP) is a venture between the Devil s Spring Ranch, the BLM and the current operator, Conoco-Phillips. The basic concept is to drill new wells from existing well pads utilizing the existing road infrastructure. In other words - no new well pads, no new roads as well as an aggressive program to reclaim, restore and improve disturbed surface, including roads. The OSPP approach may potentially reduce the landscape footprint of future drilling activities by 90%. 

There s a price tag attached but it s a bargain in terms of long-term pay-off. The OSPP is requesting $352,000 through the BLM s Budget Planning System (Project Number 56755). The goals of the OSPP are to demonstrate that the impacts to the land will be dramatically reduced through implementation of this project. We believe it is important to note that the costs are for monitoring and analyzing the project and will not result in ongoing expenses to the BLM to implement these better practices.  

The OSPP will last 5 years and produce recommendations regarding the twinning   of wells and directional drilling; long-term planning of wells/placement; and, implementing the Zeedyk road design to reduce erosion, run-off and long-term maintenance costs.  99% of the total project funding is complete, nearly a third of the OSPP wells have been drilled and a third of the roads have been completed.  

This region of the country has had active oil and gas production for over 60 years and will likely see drilling for decades to come. The Basin has approximately 35,000 wells in production. The San Juan Basin is truly the Land of Enchantment  the sacred birthplace of the Navajo, world heritage sites such as Chaco Canyon, and gold medal trout fisheries. It is a landscape worth preserving. The social, economic and environmental benefits presented by the OSPP can renew the future of the San Juan Basin. 

What can you do? 

Send the BLM a letter and urge the agency s support: 

Mike Poole, Acting Director
Bureau of Land Management
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Tagged with: san juan basin, ospp, open space pilot project, new mexico, devil’s spring ranch, chaco canyon

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