On May 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., the Bureau of Land Management will hold a public meeting at the Rangely Recreation Center on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a utility corridor from Bonanza to Enefit America Oil’s property on Rabbit Mountain.
Although oil prices are down, Enefit is moving forward with plans to build an oil shale processing plant. This project has the potential to produce 50,000 barrels per day and may require 2,000 employees, and Enefit believes Rangely is important to their plans.
I first became involved with this project right after I was elected a Rio Blanco County commissioner. At the scoping meeting for this EIS, I asked CEO Rikki Hrenko-Browning to consider moving their office to Rangely as it would be centrally located between their Utah and Colorado properties.
I then asked her to encourage her employees to live in Rangely as it is closer for them to commute than Vernal.
Rangely Mayor Frank Huitt and I flew the various routes from Rangely to the plant site looking for the best one to improve. We determined that upgrading Rio Blanco County Road 1 to Bonanza looked the best at first glance, but it may need further study.
Uintah County Commissioner Mike Mckee and I have had a first discussion about doing a joint road improvement project. It is now time to reopen the conversation.
Soon after the EIS scoping meetings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they were considering listing two plants, the White River Penstemon and Grahams Penstemon, as endangered. Commissioner McKee called and asked if I would represent Rio Blanco County in writing a Candidate Conservation Plan.
The purpose of the plan would be to allow grazing, oil and gas drilling, and oil shale development to proceed while at the same time ensuring the Penstemon population would remain stable and viable.
On July 22, 2014, Rio Blanco County, Uintah County, the White River Field Office BLM, Vernal District BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Utah State Lands signed the agreement. A little over a month later, U.S. Fish and Wildlife announced the plants would not be listed because the agreement was in place.
Now we have an opportunity to see an oil shale project that will have direct benefits to Rangely and Rio Blanco County. If we do our part, there will be new employment opportunities with expanded or new business a possibility.
With broadband becoming a reality at the same time, it could be the start of a new world. All citizens need to attend the meeting and give comments on the EIS.
Jon D. Hill
Rio Blanco County