La Plata County officials are scrutinizing Southern Ute Indian Tribe plans to explore further shale oil and gas development.
Recently, the tribe announced plans to expand a 14-year-old Environmental Impact Statement to address potential development of its shale formations.
Creating the supplemental EIS and exploring the reserves could take as long as 10 years, so drilling wouldn’t happen any time soon. But the proposal is for about 1,534 wells on 353 well pads, which would increase La Plata County’s well count by 33 percent.
“Our comments would be similar to those we submitted to the BLM regarding the master leasing plan process and the HD Mountain oil and gas lease sale,” Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said.
“We want adequate notification given to surface owners and understand the impacts to roads.”
On April 12, commissioners will consider a letter drafted by staff members to address their concerns.
Shale wells drilled in La Plata County, like the Swift Energy drilling site southwest of Durango, have not traditionally been successful.
“Red Willow also drilled two wells, and they were not productive,” County Planner Brenna Kampf said, referring to the tribe’s oil and gas production company.
“It’s interesting that the tribe is moving forward.”
Four shale formations are under consideration in the supplemental EIS. Three – the Paradox Shale, also known as the Gothic Shale, the Mancos Shale and Lewis Shale – would produce natural gas, while the Niobrara Shale is expected to produce oil.
The formations are up to 9,000 feet underground. Minerals within formation boundaries are federally, tribally and privately owned.
If oil is found in the Niobrara Shale, the proposal would also provide for a 600-mile pipeline.
Other proposed infrastructure includes 83 miles of new roads.
The tribe is leading the supplemental EIS process with help from the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.