State regulators reconsider Usibelli gas plan

Posted: Sunday, August 01, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The Department of Natural Resources is reviewing its decision to grant an exploration license for coalbed methane near Healy.

The state gave Usibelli Coal Mine a license June 28. But Alaska Division of Oil and Gas Director Kevin Banks said several people raised concerns and the agency decided to address those issues.

One concern is over designated wildlife habitat in the area.

Usbelli wants to explore for natural gas in roughly 200,000 acres along the Parks Highway between Healy and Nenana. The area has a high potential for methane or other shallow gas.

DNR Commissioner Tom Irwin will have the chance to reject the license, accept it or modify its terms, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The state DNR issued a preliminary finding for a proposed exploration license in 2005, but other priorities at the agency stalled the process for years.

"I think the parties involved would prefer we get moving," Banks said. "It's been an embarrassingly long time as it is."

Some people who raised concerns requested larger setbacks next to creeds and watersheds, greater rights for residential subdivisions and a longer comment period.

The Denali Citizens Council, an environmental group based in Healy, asked that areas already designated by the state for public recreation and wildlife habitat in the Stampede townships be set aside.

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