US poised to approve drilling plan

U.S. officials are expected Tuesday to approve a plan by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to drill 3,700 natural-gas wells in eastern Utah, capping a yearslong review of a project that will be one of the largest in the region. 

Approval for the Greater Natural Buttes project in the Uintah Basin, to be announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, comes as the Obama administration is supporting natural-gas production as a way to create jobs with a cleaner-burning fuel than coal or oil. 

Once Anadarko's wells are up and running, they would be expected to produce about one billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, according to Anadarko, enough to heat or cool about 5.5 million homes. 

"It's a significant amount of natural gas," said John Christiansen, a spokesman for Anadarko, which already has 2,200 wells in the region. 

The Greater Natural Buttes project is the uncommon case in which an energy company won the support of environmental groups, which are often vocal critics of oil and natural-gas development. Anadarko agreed to pull previous proposals to expand drilling to new areas, including parts of a proposed red-rock wilderness area, said Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an environmental group. 

Instead, Anadarko said in its environmental-impact statement, its wells would be drilled from existing wellpads, using technology that allows the well to curve away from a straight-down path and tap new deposits. 

"Both sides came away from this deal with something they wanted," Ms. McIntosh said. 

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