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Protestors Picket Moab BLM Over Oil And Gas Field

A controversial oil and gas field along the approach to Dead Horse Point and Island in the Sky is getting more controversial. On Wednesday, about 30 protestors assembled with signs at the Moab’s BLM parking lot.

“We don’t want their oil and gas revenue money. And the only way we’re going to stop them is to continue that pressure is to be as vocal as we possibly can to anyone who is willing to listen,” one protestor said.

“And to go forth to the city council and the BLM and say wait a minute, what the hell’s going on?” another protestor said.

Environmentalists were already concerned about the noise, the truck traffic, visual impacts, and the fact that city tap water is being used to drill wells. Now they allege that a new pipeline to carry natural gas from the field is not being built to proper safety standards. Bill Love is one of the local citizens who have been documenting and photographing the pipeline on their own.

“BLM promised in their EA that we would have the highest quality, safest pipeline possible along Highway 313 and Dubinky Wells,” Love said. “It is very unsafe, it is on the ground, it is scarred. It is pipe that has corrosion before they even get into it. They’re using trees as pedestals. The BLM needs to enforce the promise to the public and ensure that it is a safe pipeline. They’re sliding, and letting the pipeline company do what they want to do.”

According to Love, the BLM has not been enforcing its own regulations designed to prevent oilfield fires and explosions. Those incidents have become more common as new gathering pipelines are built, often without regulation.

Love also expressed increasing concern over whether drilling and mining are compatible with Moab’s tourism economy.

“BLM is destroying, of course, the view shed, and the area is used by hundreds of thousands of tourists going to and from the park and recreating in the area. This is a critical, critical tourist area. Tourists don’t recreate in an oilfield along pipelines. It will not happen, you can not have both. We’re damaging our main source of income by putting in a little oilfield and pipeline in this area.”

The BLM has maintained that the pipeline and numerous gathering lines are necessary so that wells won’t have to be flared or vented.

Lance Porter is the Canyon Country district manager for the BLM.

“The pipeline was necessary. Currently there’s a well just venting that gas to the atmosphere, and there was a lot of desire to capture that rather than waste that gas. So we authorized the approval for them to construct the pipeline.”

Porter said the BLM is working with Utah’s office of pipeline and safety, and he is confident that the pipeline will not be a threat to the public.   

“BLM is concerned that we have a safe pipeline.  We’re going to be watching it. We have a third-party monitor that is keeping track of all the BLM resources, and we’re taking care of those and making sure the pipeline is going to be constructed safely,” he said.

“After the pipeline is constructed, the project proponent is also committed to various safety measures, including x-raying the pipeline and pressurizing that pipeline before they ever put the product in it.”

Also this week, public support in moab for extractive industries is waning a citizen group told the county council. The group analyzed comment letters about the proposed Bishop-Chaffetz public lands bill, and said most support more wilderness and expressed fears that drilling and mining will ‘destroy public lands.’

Originally from Wyoming, Jon Kovash has practiced journalism throughout the intermountain west. He was editor of the student paper at Denver’s Metropolitan College and an early editor at the Aspen Daily News. He served as KOTO/Telluride’s news director for fifteen years, during which time he developed and produced Thin Air, an award-winning regional radio news magazine that ran on 20 community stations in the Four Corners states. In Utah his reports have been featured on KUER/SLC and KZMU/Moab. Kovash is a senior correspondent for Mountain Gazette and plays alto sax in “Moab’s largest garage band."