Groups say Bureau of Land Management was wrong to approve project

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Sierra Club have filed an appeal challenging a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision in Utah, last Friday. The two groups say that the BLM was wrong to approve Fidelity Exploration & Production’s pipeline in the first place.

“BLM’s decision to consider Fidelity’s gathering pipeline system in isolation, and not take into account the environmental impacts from other projects necessary to make the gathering system work, is a textbook violation of environmental laws,” Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance told KSL Utah.

The Dead Horse Lateral Pipeline is a project of Fidelity Exploration & Production Company, an MDU Resources (ticker: MDU) owned business. Fidelity wants to build the pipeline to carry currently flared natural gas off its oil production sites in the Big Flat area of Utah. The pipeline is expected to cost $70 million and run approximately 24 miles, according to Fidelity.

Fidelity expects that the cost of the project will likely be higher than the value realized from the sale of the natural gas, but it will reduce the visual impact of existing flares and decrease emissions. About 18 miles of the pipeline will be kept above ground in order to minimize disturbances to the landscape, and it will operate at very low pressures. The maximum pressure Fidelity plans to use in the 12-inch pipeline is 200 psi – far lower than the 1,500 psi normally used for large volume federally regulated interstate natural gas transmission pipelines. Fidelity’s presentation explaining the project and the company’s use of low impact procedures may be reviewed here.

Fidelity purchased leases to the wells in the Big Flat area in 2007, and has increased the pace of oil and gas activity in the area. In 2013, the wells at Big Flat flared enough natural gas to heat 236,000 homes, leading to the company’s decision to shut in the wells and construct a pipeline to transport the gas for eventual processing at a plant.

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