Drilling in Utah natural gas field gets feds' OK

By JOSH LOFTIN | June 9, 2011 | 3:12 PM EDT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The federal government says drilling can begin on a large natural gas project in eastern Utah that officials say will open nearly 3,700 new wells and create thousands of jobs.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said during a conference call with reporters Thursday that Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has approval to begin drilling, as long as it controls pollution emissions.

The project covers about 250 square miles in the Greater Natural Buttes area of Uintah (YOO'-in-tah) County near the Colorado border.

Officials say the project could yield 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The project was first proposed in 2006 but has been tied up because of air quality concerns in the Uintah Basin.

The basin has experienced 23 days this year when ozone levels exceeded acceptable levels.