Anyone who has visited the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park or Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab over the past few years has no doubt noticed the gradual spread of industrial development at the entrance to the parks in an area known as Big Flat. What began as a modest expansion of decades-old drill pads has now taken off at a breakneck pace. The highly visible network of pump jacks, roads, and pipelines stands out as you drive along state highway 313 – a route designated by Utah as a “scenic” byway.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.
Fidelity Exploration and Production Company, a Denver based oil and gas operator, is proposing to expand this industrial web south into Hatch Point near the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Proposed for wilderness designation and identified by the BLM itself as possessing wilderness character, Hatch Point features iconic redrock formations, including towering Wingate cliffs, buttes, and rock pillars, and some of the nation’s most brilliant night skies.
The proposed expansion would include drilling up to 21 oil and gas wells, “upgrading” more than 19 miles of existing two-track routes into 14-foot-wide “resource roads,” and constructing several new roads. On top of all this, Fidelity is proposing to flare natural gas from each well rather than collect and transport the gas to produce energy. The flared gas will be visible from within Canyonlands National Park and will further degrade air quality in the region.
The BLM has improperly – and unlawfully – allowed Fidelity to develop the Big Flat region in a piecemeal fashion, one phase of development at a time, and is poised to do the same with Hatch Point. It’s time for the BLM to consider the entire scope of Fidelity’s activities in a single environmental impact statement before allowing the company to completely surround the eastern edge of Canyonlands National Park with its industrial web of development.