Hiner proposes opening Anticline ‘flank’ leases


With an meeting agenda

item simply titled “lease suspensions,” Pinedale

Field Office Manager Caleb Hiner introduced

a “brainstorm” concept at the April 25

Pinedale Anticline operators’ meeting that he

believes will be a win-win for everyone.

First he announced his upcoming move in

early June to work as associate manager for

the Wind River Bighorn District.

Hiner pointed out that in the 2008 Record

of Decision for the Pinedale Anticline

Project Area, certain oil and gas leases were

suspended on the “flanks” of the core development

areas. The suspension was set to last

five years when someone such as himself

could review its status in the Bureau of Land

Management.

“The ROD said after five years, the lease

suspensions could be lifted,” Hiner told operators,

BLM staff and public. “We are well

past that date. We also need significant functional

wildlife habitat. A lot has changed in

10 years.”

“We’re now looking at directional and horizontal

drilling that could reach the natural gas

without being on the flanks,” Hiner continued.

“But the leases are still suspended. … We

have the opportunity to develop on the core

(development areas) and in the flanks without

any surface disturbance in the flanks.”

Mule deer and pronghorn herds, both under

scrutiny as part of the 2008 ROD’s wildlife

matrix for population declines, all use the

transitional and seasonal ranges on the Anticline’s

“flanks,” he added.

“If we can develop (on the flanks) with

zero disturbance – if we have horizontal drilling

into the flanks from the core, on a case-bycase

basis and if I lift the lease suspension,”

he said to those from Ultra, Pinedale Energy

Partners, Maverick and Jonah Energy, “I

would like your thoughts and concerns of lifting

the suspensions on a case-by-case basis

if the disturbances would only occur in the

core?”

Reporter Angus Thuermer Jr. asked Hiner

if vibrations from underground drilling might

affect greater sage-grouse. PEP’s Kevin Williams

replied the drilling would be more than

2 miles below the surface.

Also, Hiner said, the Anticline EIS analyzed

for 4,399 wells and “there should not

be an automatic assumption there would be

more wells.”

Carmel Kail asked about the increased development

activity in the core areas.

“Better to have development in the core

than development on the flanks,” Hiner replied.

Operators said at the meeting they were unaware

of Hiner’s proposal until that moment

and did not expect to hear what he proposed.

One asked if the only leases lifted would be

confined to a wellbore and not the entire suspended

area; Hiner said he “envisioned lifting

it lease by lease.”

Elaine Crumpley asked Hiner if he wanted

to “respect migration corridors” by not drilling

on the flanks.

“I am still waiting for a Game and Fish recommendation

to manage it,” Hiner said. “That

being said, I am somewhat familiar with wildlife

movements. That is why I would prefer to

have development in the core and not in the

flanks.”

“Technically (the suspended leases) could

be up for grabs?” Crumpley asked, referring to

a future manager making a different decision.

“You are doing this to protect the flanks?”

“Yes. I believe this development scenario

is 100 percent consistent with both the wording

and the intent of the ROD. With zero

additional disturbance in the flanks,” Hiner

replied. “The habitat on the flanks to me are

Hiner proposes opening Anticline ‘flank’ leases

more important than the core. Face it; it’s a

gasfield. To me it’s not nearly as valuable as

habitat that is not disturbed on the flanks.”

Jasmine Allison commented, “It could

have been opened up five or six years ago, so

it delayed development.”

Hiner related that he pondered the situation

of the suspended leases, mule deer numbers

as well as wildlife habitat. “I literally woke up

at 3 in the morning … and looked at what we

could do to raise the bar to help out the mule

deer, occupy the core and still use the flanks.”

He plans to meet with Game and Fish

staff to further discuss the proposal and put

a memorandum of understanding in the Anticline’s

file that “zero acres of disturbance are

proposed in the flanks.”

He could make this decision without public

notice, he added. “That being said, I think

it would be prudent to have it posted and go

through an environmental assessment process.”

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