Salazar Signs on Major Gas Drilling Project With Conservation Compromise

Natural gas development is about to increase significantly in Utah. On Tuesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved a major drilling project the Obama Administration says will create thousands of jobs while protecting the environment.

“The world today should simply stand back and say 'Wow, how did they do this?’"

Dressed in a cowboy hat and jeans, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed the Greater Natural Buttes Project Record of Decision. The major energy project being developed by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation is set to create more than 3,600 new wells over then next decade and support more than 4,000 jobs.

“This development will infuse millions of dollars into Uintah County and other local Utah communities and will be part of our country's comprehensive energy portfolio. The decision today exemplifies the kind of progress we are making in support of the Administration's energy strategy.”

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey offered praise to Anadarko for its work in protecting the environment:

“Anadarko is one of those companies that get it. Their personnel understand that it is not always about the bottom line; that by reaching out the affected interest they can move forward with much needed projects so that we can have appropriate development and in a way respects the values of all.”

Steve Bloch, Energy Program Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says it took months of face to face meetings to reach a compromise. In this case, the company won’t drill in a potential wilderness area along the White River, the last major free-flowing river on the Colorado Plateau. It also bought more than 600 acres of private land along the river for conservation.

“In the sensitive parts of the project area both the White River and some of the areas where there are some sensitive species...the company was willing to go to some extreme lengths to make accommodations.”

Brad Holly, General Manger of the Greater Natural Buttes Project says with the record of decision being signed, new development will begin immediately.