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Colorado: BLM defers touchy North Fork drilling leases

88,000 acres go on auction block next week

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A BLM map identifies areas up for oil and gas drilling leases, as well as areas where lease sales have been deferred.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Bureau of Land Management will offer up another 90,000 acres of land in Colorado for oil and gas drilling next week, but the agency did defer sales of about 20,000 acres of controversial proposed leases in the North Fork area.

The BLM also deferred the leasing of several parcels along the entrance road to Dinosaur National Monument because the agency doesn’t have a current inventory of the area’s wilderness characteristics, according to Ellyne Bannon, of the Checks and Balances Project.

Details of the upcoming lease sale are at this BLM website.

“We’ve listened to concerns raised in numerous comments and public meetings and we are responding by deferring the North Fork Valley parcels at this time,” said Colorado State Director Helen Hankins. “We are addressing the deferred parcels through continued dialogue with the local community and with ongoing planning efforts in the Uncompahgre Field Office.”

Federal oil and gas parcels offered for lease are nominated by oil and gas companies and then reviewed by the BLM to determine the appropriateness of potential development. Approved parcels are offered at one of the BLM’s quarterly sales, which are required by law.

Lease sales have become controversial in Colorado because conservation groups say the BLM is basing its leasing decisions on outdated resource plans, and because Colorado BLM officials have been slow to adopt national leasing reforms.

As a result, nearly 9 out of every 10 acres proposed for leasing has come under protest in Colorado. By comparison, protests in Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico have declined by two-thirds to 27 percent, according to the Checks and Balances project.

Conservation groups have also said that the fossil fuel companies have plenty of lands under lease that haven’t been developed. Drilling proponents say the advance lease sales are needed to enable long-term planning for energy development.

“This decision is consistent with our reform efforts that emphasize a comprehensive approach to oil and gas leasing so as to ensure that energy development occurs in the appropriate places,” said Acting BLM Director Mike Pool. “I want to thank Helen Hankins for her leadership and efforts to work closely with local communities as this moves forward.”

The BLM’s quarterly oil and gas lease sale will be held at 9:00 am on February 14 at the BLM Colorado State Office, which is located at 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, Colo 80215 (www.blm.gov/co).

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