Surge in Cheyenne area oil drilling topic of public meeting hosted by regulators, industry



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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — People worried by a surge in oil development in the Cheyenne area will get a chance to air their concerns with state regulators and oil industry officials at a public meeting Thursday.

Agencies including the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and companies including EOG Resources have scheduled a public meeting on the oil boom Thursday in Cheyenne.

A similar meeting in Douglas last year drew about 100 people. Up to now, the southern Powder River Basin has been Wyoming's oil-drilling hot spot, but several drilling rigs are active in the Cheyenne area, and more than 1,500 applications to drill deep oil wells in Laramie County currently are on file.

Some in the area have been asking whether the drilling will lead to air and water pollution, Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Keith Guille said Monday. "A lot of times there's a little confusion about what agency regulates what," Guille said.

For example, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates oil and gas development in the state. The Department of Environmental Quality typically gets involved in oil and gas development only after a spill has occurred.

Wyoming Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson, Department of Environmental Quality Director Todd Parfitt, and representatives of the State Engineer's Office, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Petroleum Association of Wyoming will take part in the meeting from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Storey Auditorium in Cheyenne.

The meeting will include presentations and question-and-answer sessions, Guille said.

Wells in southeast Wyoming target the Niobrara shale and Codell sandstone formations more than a mile deep. Most permitted wells are concentrated in a 20-by-20-mile area due east of Cheyenne, Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records show.

"There is a lot of concern by landowners in the outlying area," said Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council landowners' group. "On a monthly basis, there are letters sent to the oil and gas commission contesting well permits."

How much drilling occurs in the months ahead remains to be seen as oil prices dip below $50 a barrel to their lowest levels in more than five years.

"It's more of a long term thing to look at," said John Robitaille, vice president of the petroleum association. "It's a difficult question to answer."

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