Disagreements continue over drilling deal

Laramie, Wy – The Forest Service's initial approval of a Texas oil and gas company's plan to drill in the Wyoming Range is drawing concern from local conservationists and at least one state representative. They say that area - called the Noble Basin - is too special for the proposed level of development. Some are also expressing reservations about a possible deal between Plains Exploration and Production Company and two Wyoming sportsmen's and outfitters' groups. Under that agreement, PXP would retire 28 thousand acres of leases elsewhere in the range, once drilling is underway in the Noble Basin. Dan Smitherman represents local group Citizens for the Wyoming Range, which is skeptical of the proposal.
"No one knows whether Plains would have ever tried to develop those other leases or not, or whether they would have retired them. It's the opinion of some of the people that I work with that a lot of that lease that's being offered wouldn't have been allowed to be developed anyway."
But Gary Amerine of the Wyoming Outfitters & Guides Association disagrees.
"As we went down the road, we got the 28,000 acres. Also we got the $6 million mitigation package. To say there's no value there is not correct."
One-point-two million acres of the Wyoming Range were protected from future leasing when the Wyoming Range Legacy Act was signed into law last year. The Forest Service's draft environmental impact statement for drilling in the Noble Basin outlines plans for 136 wells and 17 well pads in the area.