Conservation groups seek ban on new fracking around Chaco Canyon

More fracking threatens public health, historic treasures

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Historic ruins at Chaco Canyon, Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil and gas drilling in the vicinity of the treasured Chaco Culture National Historical Park poses an imminent risk to irreplaceable resources, conservation groups said as the moved to block the federal government from approving any more permits.

Continued drilling threatens public health, clean air and water, and Navajo communities in the region, the groups said as they called on a federal judge to issue an injunction on oil and gas development in the Greater Chaco region. Continue reading

Environment: Feds tackle sage-steppe restoration

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The BLM is eying sagebrush restoration work.

Great Basin projects to bolster sage-grouse habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal land managers want to stem the loss of sagebrush habitat with a $4 million series of projects across the Great Basin.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the Bureau of Land Management projects will  reduce the threat of  more frequent and intense wildfires that are damaging sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands. Continue reading

Colorado sues feds over new fracking rules

Colorado AG claims BLM regs ‘invade’ state authority

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A fracking rig in western Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is challenging the federal government’s ability to regulate oil and gas development on federal public lands in the state. In a quiet Friday news dump, Coffman announced her department is suing the federal government over new fracking rules issued in March.

The lawsuit claims the federal rules “invade” the state’s regulatory authority, a similar argument over jurisdiction used by Gov. Hickenlooper and his administration when they sued a local jurisdiction that sought to impose fracking rules in a case that has since been dismissed. Continue reading

Feds to update financial rules for oil and gas drilling

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An aerial view show a spreading network of drilling roads spreading on public lands in eastern Utah.

Lease practices, bonding requirements and royalty rates on the table in planned revision

Staff Report

FRISCO — The federal government wants to update rules governing oil and gas royalty rates and other financial aspects of oil and gas development on public lands.

In a rule-making notice to be published in the Federal Register this week, the Department of Interior said it will take public comment on rental payments, lease sale minimum bids, civil penalty caps and financial assurances for oil and gas operations.

“It’s time to have a candid conversation about whether the American taxpayer is getting the right return for the development of oil and gas resources on public lands,” Interior Secretary Jewell, said in a statement. Continue reading

Coal mining in a roadless area? Forest Service says, ‘Why not?’

Wetlands in the Sunset Roadless area. Photo courtesy Earthjustice.

Wetlands in the Sunset Roadless area. Photo courtesy Earthjustice.

State, feds to spend a ton of money for a new study and to fight subsequent lawsuits just to pump more Co2 and methane into the air

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — State and federal officials appear determined to let bulldozers punch into the rolling aspen forests of the Sunset Roadless Area southeast of Paonia.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service this week announced they’ll try to reinstate a contested Colorado exemption to a 2001 national roadless rule that virtually ended all logging, roadbuilding, and coal, gas, oil, and other mineral leasing about 50 million acres across the country, including 4 million acres in Colorado.

Under unique Colorado provisions in a state version of the rule, a patch of the Sunset Roadless area was designated as a mining zone, authorizing temporary construction of roads to support future coal mining in the area, mainly by enabling construction of methane vents. Conservation advocates have been challenging those exemptions ever since. Continue reading

BLM updates oil and gas drilling plan for Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado

Master leasing plan aims to protect Dinosaur National Monument

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Can a master leasing protect cherished public resources around Dinosaur National Monument?

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An aerial view of the Dinosaur National Monument entrance road. Photo courtesy EcoFlight.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A new master leasing plan proposed by the Bureau of Land Management for public lands surrounding northwestern Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument aims to reduce oil and gas drilling impacts to wildlife, archaeological treasures and other resources in the region.

The plan could work if it’s implemented effectively, according to some public land watchdog groups, but doesn’t do much to address the larger issue of trying to move away from fossil fuels.

In fact, the agency expects oil and gas drilling to increase in the area, so the study that forms the basis for the plan evaluated impacts associated with the potential development of more than 15,000 oil and gas wells drilled on 1,100 well pads over the next 20 years. Continue reading

Cherished Colorado areas at risk as House GOP seeks to strip funding for National Conservation Lands

Budget cutting would threaten robust recreation economy

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An arch in Colorado’s Rattlesnake Canyon, part of the system of National Conservation Lands. Photo courtesy BLM.

Staff ReportFRISCO — House Republicans are continuing their nearly relentless attack on public lands with a threatened move to take away funding for more than 30 million acres of National Conservation Lands, including popular Colorado areas like the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and McInnis Canyons NCA.Gutting the budget for the National Conservation Lands threatens access to public lands that drive the nation’s outdoor economy and provide a livelihood for many Westerners.

The push by the House Resources Committee is at odds with President Obama’s budget, which recognizes these lands are underfunded and proposes an increase in funding. Dozens of national monuments and national conservation areas across the West—places like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas — would have to shut their doors. Continue reading

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