County hopes BLM approves oil EIS quickly

Guest column by Jim Willox

Converse County is blessed with significant agricultural, mineral and other resources. One of those resources – oil and natural gas – has long been developed in the county and represents a valuable revenue stream from ad valorem and other taxes.

Nearly 78% of Converse County’s $2.1 billion in property value that is assessed for taxation, or $1.7 billion, is associated with oil and gas.

In addition to the financial benefits from taxes, the industry also employs thousands of people directly and even more indirectly. Oil and gas supports the livelihood of many of our neighbors and community members that do not directly work for the industry but work at hotels, restaurants, and shops throughout the county, which benefit from development activity.

What happens in Converse County does not stop at the county line – it benefits the entire state of Wyoming. One–third of the oil produced in Wyoming comes from Converse County – more than 33 million barrels of oil were produced here in 2019. That benefits communities, schools, social services and more across the entire state.

This is why it is critical that we continue to support efforts that help ensure we maintain this critical revenue source. One such effort is the Converse County Oil and Gas Development Project.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initiated scoping for this project in 2014, more than six years ago, and this July the agency released its final environmental impact statement (EIS).

From the beginning Converse County has had one overriding goal, a more stable social economic environment for our citizens. This is best accomplished by a thoughtful, well developed plan that allows for year around activity while providing the environmental protections Wyoming is known for. We call it multiple use.

BLM, the project proponents, and many cooperating agencies, including Converse County, have dedicated significant time and resources to the preparation of this analysis. On behalf of Converse County, I have participated in dozens of meetings and workshops and spent countless hours reviewing and commenting on this plan.

This process is long and I assure you thorough, which ensures that the oil and gas development within the project area is conducted safely and responsibly to keep our environment and community members safe.

BLM scrupulously evaluated the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and even pursued a revision to the Casper resource management plan (RMP) to better accommodate year–round development in the project area.

Year-–round activity allows for more efficient development of the resources in the project area and significantly benefits the County. Allowing for more continuous operations will result in more continuous employment opportunities and valuable economic revenue to the County and state coffers. A more stable social economic environment for Converse County is good for Wyoming.

It also reduces environmental impacts associated with the repeated mobilization and demobilization of drilling and completions equipment. This reduces truck traffic, which helps air quality and increases both human and wildlife safety factors.

This review process is also intended to provide multiple opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback. I, along with my fellow Converse County commissioners, submitted to BLM a comment letter with suggested changes to the final EIS.

I’m confident the project will result in long-term economic and employment benefits and properly balance critical environmental protections with responsible oil and gas development activity.

I hope BLM will strongly consider our suggestions and expeditiously finalize the EIS so the county can be one step closer to recognizing the significant benefits from this project.


(Willox has served as a Converse County commissioner for 14 years and has been the lead for the county on the CCEIS since day one.)


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