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December 13, 2011 8:42 am

EDITORIAL: Drilling project decision welcome

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Windsor Energy’s decision to give up a controversial drilling project in the Shoshone National Forest may be for the best.

The company sought to drill an exploratory gas well inside the forest’s boundary and roughly seven miles northwest of the Clark community. Officials announced last week that they’re backing off the project at this time. Windsor still will retain its lease and could pursue drilling in the area in the future. But for now, Windsor won’t drill inside the Shoshone Forest.

For Clark-area residents and others worried about potential environmental impacts, the announcement is a relief.

The drilling proposal was met with controversy since it was first announced several years ago. After all, the site was less than a mile from where a Windsor well blew out and contaminated groundwater in 2006. That incident forced a temporary evacuation of 15 households, and contaminants were discovered in the drinking water on a Clark couple’s property. Clean up at the blowout site still continues.

It only makes sense for the company to finalize a clean-up plan for that site before beginning another drilling project in the vicinity.

Still, Windsor’s exploratory gas well was likely going to be approved in the Shoshone National Forest. Windsor has the mineral rights to the site. For U.S. Forest Service officials, the primary concern wasn’t whether to allow the well, but rather, to identify drilling regulations for the project.

After Windsor backed off its plans last week, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management shelved an environmental assessment of the project, which was slated for release next month.

The Windsor well would have been one of the first drilled in the Shoshone in decades. And it’s likely that environmental groups and others would have appealed the drilling or sought additional environmental analysis. For taxpayers, those costs quickly add up.

While we welcome the news of Windsor’s abandoned plans, it’s not to say we don’t appreciate the value of gas and oil development in the Big Horn Basin.

Our local and state economies — as well as our school districts, highways and other public services — depend on energy development.

Yet it’s important also to realize there are areas more appropriate for drilling projects. On the edge of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Shoshone National Forest isn’t one of them.

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1 Comment

  • Comment Link December 13, 2011 12:48 pm posted by TN

    One day the revenues from oil & gas production won't be here,then you all can pay more taxes to make up for the lost revenues.Starting with the greenies up on Line Creek since they hate oil & gas so much.I have yet to see any of them go to town on a horse or walk,but that doesn't seem to apply to them.

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