By Tom Kenworthy
Yesterday the Center for American Progress and the Sierra Club released a series of short documentary videos called “Public Lands, Private Profits.” The first two stories profiled the new rush to extract uranium near Grand Canyon National Park and a proposed expansion of a coal mine near Bryce Canyon National Park.
Part three explores a remote corner of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and how it might be transformed by a natural gas drilling plan.
The Noble Basin sits in the shadow of the Wyoming Range, most of which was protected from energy development by Congress in 2009. But previous leases bought by energy companies can still be developed, and that includes one proposal for 136 wells to be drilled by Plains Exploration and Production (PXP), a Texas company.
Opponents of drilling the Noble Basin say it would destroy an area that is vitally important for deer, antelope, moose, bear and other wildlife, and radically alter a way of life for people who live there or who depend on the area for hunting and other recreation.
Those who are battling PXP and urging the Forest Service to find a way out see what unbridled energy development can bring. Thousands of gas wells dot the lands near the town of Pinedale, and have turned a remote region of Wyoming into an industrial center, with huge impacts on wildlife and air quality.
The U.S. Forest Service is conducting a final environmental review of the gas drilling project. If officials decide that tighter restrictions on drilling near existing roads apply, it’s possible that the PXP leases would be less valuable and could be bought out by those who want the Noble Basin preserved in its current wild state.
Tom Kenworthy is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.