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Pipeline

Workers weld together pipe as they construct a line for Meritage Midstream outside Douglas March 26. The Bureau of Land Management will launch a series of public meetings to consider a new pipeline that would snake across 1,150 miles of Wyoming federal land.

A proposal to designate 1,150 miles of Wyoming federal lands for a vast network of future pipelines entered the next phase of review Friday.

The Bureau of Land Management announced it would hold a series of public meetings on the Wyoming Pipeline Corridor Initiative, a project to expand the state's pipeline infrastructure and help companies transport carbon dioxide to existing oil reservoirs and recover leftover oil. 

The initiative stretches back almost eight years ago, when then-Gov. Matt Mead announced plans to expand the state's energy pipelines. In 2012, the Wyoming Legislature dedicated money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the project.

By approving a designated network of pipelines, the state reasoned it could potentially expedite the review process for future pipeline construction on federal land by oil and gas companies.

In a process known as carbon flooding, carbon dioxide is injected into reservoirs to remove residual oil that traditional drilling processes failed to extract. The strategy is already being employed by Anadarko, Devon, Denbury and several companies at oil fields throughout Wyoming, according to a July proposal submitted to the federal land management agency. But companies need to be able to access carbon dioxide affordably. That's where more pipelines come in.

Operators could source carbon dioxide from natural hydrocarbon reservoirs, or sequester it from existing power plants. It would then be transported along the pipeline corridor to oil fields.

"The initiative supports Gov. Mark Gordon’s goals of supporting carbon capture projects and extending the life of coal fired power plants in Wyoming," a Friday press release from the governor stated.

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After the public scoping meetings next month, the Bureau of Land Management will conduct an intensive environmental impact statement  to consider harmful environmental impacts of pipeline development to sage grouse habitats, air quality, existing industry and much more. 

But the approval of the initiative may still be a long ways off, and opposition from conservation groups has already surfaced. Many conservationists worry the proposed pipeline corridor threatens vulnerable sage grouse habitats in Wyoming.

"Certainly pipeline corridors, with all the bulldozing, threaten sage grouse habitat," said Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. "In some cases, the reclamation (or clean up of the land) doesn't succeed and you get invasive weeds colonizing the land, too."

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The disturbed land coupled with warming temperatures can produce a ripe environment for the spreading of weeds that harm existing foliage and wildlife, Molvar explained. 

What's more, the federal government's approval of the proposal would not immediately authorize pipelines along the corridor, according to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management. Companies hoping to build a pipeline within the approved corridor would still need to undergo additional review processes. 

Public scoping meetings will take place next month at several locations throughout the state beginning on Dec. 9 in Cheyenne. 

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