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

USGS study points out huge fracking data gaps

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Fracking in western Colorado. bberwyn photo.

No way to assess water quality impacts on a regional or national level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil and gas companies like to present fracking as benign, and, for the most part, government regulators play along. For example, a recent oil and gas task force in Colorado barely touched on the subject of groundwater impacts from fracking. Continue reading

Conservation groups launch legal challenge to fracking in the Chaco Canyon region

Lawsuit also says feds ignored climate impacts of new oil and gas development

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Cultural and historic resources in the Chaco Canyon region are at risk from fracking. Photo via NPS.

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Conservation and community groups say new oil and gas drilling in the San Juan Basin threatens cultural resources in the greater Chaco Canyon region. Photo courtesy WildEarth Guardians.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Community and environmental activists are waging an all-out battle to keep oil and gas drilling at bay in the Chaco Canyon region of northwestern New Mexico, an area with cultural and historic values of global importance, under UNESCO’s World Heritage designation.

Fracking rigs have crept to within 20 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, and some outlier sites are at risk, according to WildEarth Guardians. Just a couple of years ago, the Bureau of Land Management proposed leases within 2 miles of Chaco Canyon. Those proposed leases were deferred, but concerns remain that they could be offered again. Continue reading

Proposed new oil and gas leases in Wyoming cut into the heart of important greater sage-grouse habitat

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Sage grouse don’t much like these drilling rigs.

Wyoming greater sage-grouse populations down 60 percent in last few years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say proposed new oil and gas leases on 89,000 acres in northwestern Wyoming would devastate greater sage-grouse in the region by permitting industrial operations in some of the birds’ most important nesting and rearing habitat.

In a comment letter to the federal government, the  Center for Biological Diversity wrote that, even sage grouse have declined 60 percent over six years in Wyoming, the plan repeatedly ignores federal scientists’ recommendations for protecting these prairie birds from fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Colorado oil and gas task force gets down to nitty-gritty

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Fracking industry, Hickenlooper keen to avoid ballot showdown

@bberwyn

FRISCO — A Colorado panel convened to address controversy over the giant industrial fracking facilities springing up near communities will hold its final meetings this week and  try to agree on a final list of recommendations aimed at protecting residents from the harmful impacts of oil and gas development.

The 21-member panel will discuss 35 proposals, including some that could lead to new rulemaking by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission or potentially even new legislation. Audio from meeting at the Colorado Convention Center will be streamed live via a link at the task force website starting about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday (Feb. 24). Continue reading

New study takes nuanced look at methane leaks

In some gas fields, leak rates appear close to official estimates

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Researchers try to quantify methane leakage in natural gas fields.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Boulder-based researchers have used thousands of detailed measurements taken during overflights to take a nuanced look at methane leaks from natural gas fields.

The findings show methane leaking at the rate of tens of thousands of pounds per hour in three major natural gas basins that span Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. But the overall leak rate from those basins is only about one percent of gas production there — lower than leak rates measured in other gas fields, and in line with federal estimates. Continue reading

Colorado fracking industry files formal objection to White River National Forest oil and gas plan

Drillers say restrictions will hinder exploitation of new shale plays to the detriment of local communities

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Most oil and gas development on the White River National Forest is limited to the far western zones in areas where drilling is already common.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Even though the vast majority of public lands in the West are already open for fossil fuel exploitation, oil and gas companies want more.

In their latest push for more drilling, three fracking industry lobbying groups are challenging the White River National Forest’s oil and gas drilling plan, claiming that the agency’s analysis was marred by politics, as elected officials pushed to have the Thompson Divide area excluded from energy development.

In their formal objection to the plan, the groups ( Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Public Lands Advocacy) the groups said that, as written, the document could prevent the development of speculative new plays in Mancos and Niobrara shale formations in western Colorado. Continue reading

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