Upper Green River Valley Time-Series Images

We’ve just added to our time-series of images showing the spread of drilling in the Jonah and Pinedale Anticline natural-gas fields, located on public lands in western Wyoming’s upper Green River valley — the southern part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The new images are SPOT XS satellite pics taken in September 12, 2006 and September 27, 2007. We’ve applied a “natural-color” process to these images so that vegetation will appear green and water blue, in keeping with the earlier Landsat images in these series. Drilling is booming in both fields, with new drilling plans released by the Bureau of Land Management last year that will add thousands of new wells to these fields.

Google Earth users, download the KMZ file for the Jonah Field to explore the roads, well pads, and other facilities in this area in 1-meter detail; the Google image was taken in August 2006.

Go here to learn more about drilling in this area and what you can do, and here to read more about SkyTruth’s other work in the upper Green.

Google Earth Now Has Image Dates

Hooray! This is a great addition to the virtual sightseeing capability offered by Google Earth. Their just-released upgrade (version 4.3) allows you to see when the images were taken. As you move your cursor around the screen, the image date appears in the gray-shaded “status bar” at the bottom of the image:

Knowing the date of the imagery makes it a lot more informative. This example shows a large industrial facility (probably for processing natural gas) a few miles southeast of Farmington, New Mexico, in an area of intensive drilling for coalbed methane. The status bar indicates that this image was taken on March 26, 2007.

So get that free upgrade now and start globetrotting. And let us know what places you’re concerned about.

Upper Green River Valley Video Now On EmPivot

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our 10-minute, narrated video tour of natural-gas drilling in the upper Green River valley area of western Wyoming (the southern part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem). It’s a mashup of Google Earth flyover sequences, photos taken from the air and ground, and GIS information that tells the story of the impacts of energy development on this region:
It’s been available for online viewing through YouTube. Now you can also view it online at EmPivot, a new site for environmental videos that provides higher-resolution viewing. Compare the YouTube version of our video with the EmPivot version.

And if you’d like to download the full-screen version for standalone play, help yourself to either the Windows Media Player or the QuickTime versions (warning – very large files, broadband only!). Our Upper Green River Valley image gallery is another resource packed with images and photos, featuring the spread of natural-gas infrastructure across a vast landscape as the booming Jonah and Pinedale Anticline fields have grown over the past decade. You can learn more about this, and see some nifty time-series animations of SkyTruth imagery, at the Upper Green River Valley Coalition website.

Another Gigantic Frozen Mudsicle in Colorado?!

Colorado environmentalists who flew up to the head of Garden Gulch in western Colorado on March 19 were hoping to take some aerial pictures of a frozen “waterfall” of spilled drilling fluid that had been investigated by state Department of Natural Resources staff in late February (see our previous posting on the spills that have plagued this area of intensive drilling for natural gas).

Photo by Pete Kolbenschlag / Mountain West Strategies and EcoFlight

Instead, they found something truly astonishing that hadn’t been reported: a 100′ tall tower of frozen mud, apparently caused by severe erosion of soil from dirt roads and pipelines that were being built near the rim on the Roan Plateau. Two backhoes and several trucks are plainly visible in these pictures, taken by Pete Kolbenschlag of Mountain West Strategies during a low-altitude flyover by our friend Bruce Gordon of EcoFlight.

What else is lurking out there? Let us know if anything strange pops up…

Drilling Fluid “Waterfall” in Colorado – Natural Gas Not So Clean

Been hearing a lot lately about how “clean” natural gas is as an energy source. Well… the Colorado Department of Natural Resources just learned about four spills of waste drilling fluids into Garden Gulch, a tributary of West Parachute Creek in western Colorado. There is intensive drilling for natural gas occurring throughout the area around the Roan Plateau. Critics of the Bureau of Land Management’s recently announced plan to allow drilling on top of the as-yet untouched Plateau — including Governor Ritter and Senator Salazar — are worried that this is exactly the kind of thing that will happen, polluting surface water and ground water.

One of these spills, totaling 1.2 million gallons, created a most unnatural wonder: a frozen “waterfall” composed mostly of spilled drilling fluids, according to the DNR. Check out the photos in our image gallery. When this thing thaws out it will run directly into the creek. Bad news for the trout, bad news for fishermen.

Atlantic Rim CBM – Big Drilling in Wyoming

Plans to drill for natural gas in Wyoming continue to proliferate. We’ve attempted to simulate one of the more controversial proposals to allow drilling for coalbed methane across a rugged scenic area in south-central Wyoming, noted for wildlife and hunting / recreation opportunities, called the Atlantic Rim.

Simulated coalbed methane (CBM) drilling in the central Atlantic Rim area; oblique view looking east.

In March 2007, the Bureau of Land Management issued a final environmental impact statement and record of decision for managing this area that allows up to 2,000 wells drilled from individual well sites (wellpads) about 2-1/4 acres in size, with the closest spacing being one well per 80 acres. Our online gallery includes both topographic maps and Landsat satellite imagery showing the area as it is now, and how it could appear if drilling conforms to this plan.

Roan Plateau – EWG Report

Environmental Working Group just released a compelling report that shows the history of gas and oil drilling on and around the Roan Plateau in western Colorado. This work puts the numbers behind the tremendous burst of drilling illustrated by SkyTruth images.