Finding balance between energy development, conservation

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Graph courtesy Center for Western Priorities.

New report highlights need for more emphasis on land protection

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Public lands in the West are being leased for oil and gas production at a steady rate, but setting aside lands for non-industrial purposes has not kept pace — and it’s not just Republicans who are to blame.

The last time Congress  protected public lands was under an omnibus public lands bill that set aside more than 2 million acres of wilderness and established three new national park units, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, and more than 1,000 miles of national wild and scenic rivers.

Since then, both parties have emphasized fossil fuel production for the past decade, according to a coalition of advocacy and conservation groups who released a new report last week outlining the need to protect at least as many areas as are being leased for drilling and fracking. Continue reading

Energy: BLM to study California fracking impacts

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Widespread deposits of valuable natural gas and oil in shale formations has spurred the fracking boom.

Some leasing likely to be on hold for at least a year

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Following a legal challenge, federal officials said last week they will re-evaluate the potential impacts of fracking to public lands in California. The federal environmental study will be accompanied by a statewide independent scientific assessment of fracking in central California.

The new studies were announced after a federal court upheld a legal challenge of the  BLM’s decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. Continue reading

Colorado craft brewers join fracking fight

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Good beer needs clean water.

Letter to Gov. Hickenlooper calls for better balance between energy development and resource protection

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s brewers — including two Summit County based operations — are flexing a little political muscle and calling on Gov. John Hickenlooper to strike a better balance between energy development and conservation.

Rick Tork, manager of Frisco’s Backcountry Brewery, and Pug Ryan’s Steakhouse and Brewery owner Annie Holton, signed on to represent Summit County.

In a letter to Hickenlooper, the brewers, 26 in all, cited the importance of Colorado’s image and marketability for craft brewing and the important economic impact of keeping Colorado’s skies and waters clear and clean, saying that the state’s brand and high quality of life “attracts new residents, businesses, entrepreneurs and millions of tourists annually.”

A spokesman at the governor’s office said Hickenlooper recognizes the value of the craft-brewing industry.

“The craft brewing industry is a great economic driver for Colorado and we value our relationship with brewers across the state. We will review the letter and respond appropriately,” said communications director Eric Brown. Continue reading

Energy: BLM eyes new rules for fracking on public lands

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BLM wants to update 30-year-old fracking regs.

Common sense steps address some environmental and health concerns

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An updated set of draft rules for fracking on public and Indian lands includes several common-sense safeguards that will help protect the human health and safety, as well as the environment. For starters, the rule requires disclosure of the chemicals used for fracking, a key measure that ensures transparency and gives the public some assurance.

The proposed rule beefs up standards meant to insure well bore-integrity, which will help verify that fluids used during fracturing operations are not contaminating groundwater. Operators must also have a plan in place for handling fluids that flow back to the surface.

About 90 percent of wells drilled on Federal and Indian lands use hydraulic fracturing, but the Bureau of Land Management’s current regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. Continue reading

New group aims to protect national parks from drilling

Retired park rangers call on the BLM to fully adopt national leasing reforms

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Mesa Verde National Park could be at risk from oil and gas drilling. NPS photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — As oil and gas drilling rigs creep closer and closer to the borders of popular national parks around the country, a passel of retired park rangers has formed a new organization to try and protect cherished resources, including view sheds, air quality and wildlife habitat.

The idea is not to stop drilling. The ex-rangers acknowledge that energy development is needed. Rather, the group wants to hold other federal agencies — primarily the BLM — accountable to national guidance that requires smart, up-front planning when it comes to drilling around parks.

“We’re really concerned about the impacts if the drilling isn’t properly planned,” said Ellis Richard, a National Park Service veteran who ended his career as acting superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument, one of the park units potentially threatened by drilling. Continue reading

Colorado: Strange dénouement to legislative oil and gas saga, as Hickenlooper orders COGCC to overhaul fines

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Colorado may update its enforcement policies for oil and gas drilling operations.

More fracking debates ahead …

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After the Colorado General Assembly stumbled in its efforts to get a better regulatory handle on oil and gas drilling, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will get another bite at the apple.

Gov. John Hickenlooper this week ordered the commission to review its enforcement program, penalty structure and imposition of fines. The review was ordered state lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a bill that would have revised Colorado’s outdated enforcement system.

Under a COGCC rule-making process, the public would also be able to participate in a revision. Continue reading

Energy: Does fracking threaten national parks?

Conservation report outlines steps to mitigate potential impacts

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Oil and gas drilling near national parks could affect air and water quality in pristine, protected areas. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After years of watching federal agencies haphazardly issuing leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands near national parks, conservation advocates say it’s time for a more systematic approach.

With the Bureau of Land Management currently updating national guidelines, the National Parks Conservation Association has outlined potential threats to parks in a new report.

“Our national parks are America’s most treasured places, and we need to treat them carefully as we develop the nation’s natural gas and oil,” said NPCA Vice President for the Center for Park Research Jim Nations. “Our research revealed that some national parks are already in peril. Unless we take quick action, air, water, and wildlife will experience permanent harm in other national parks as well.” Continue reading

Colorado: BLM releases North Fork oil and gas leasing info

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Should the BLM be required to release names of companies nominating parcels for oil and gas leasing?

Community groups say more transparency is needed early in leasing procedure

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Community groups in Colorado this week hailed the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to release the names of the entities who nominated the public lands in Western Colorado’s North Fork Valley for oil and gas drilling and fracking.

The agency’s decision is a win for the public and government transparency, said Jim Ramey, director of the Delta County community group Citizens for a Healthy Community.

“The BLM’s mission is to best manage public resources, not to promote an energy speculation and commodities trading industry. If drilling companies want to develop publicly-owned minerals they should say so publicly, allowing concerned citizens and affected communities to evaluate their health, safety, and environmental record,”  Ramey said. Continue reading

Colorado: Debate shows some common ground, many differences on fracking regulation

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.

Gov. Hickenlooper, Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones tackle tough questions in lively Denver session

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Despite a couple of interruptions by hecklers, Monday’s debate between Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones showed there may be some common ground for addressing the contentious issue of oil and gas drilling regulations.

Hickenlooper seemed to agree that the state could do more to address citizen concerns about health and quality of life impacts, and said that the venting methane from oil and gas drilling operations is an unacceptable waste.

But the lunchtime debate at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law also highlighted some of the conflicting views about the appropriate roles of local and state regulation, as well as larger questions about energy policies. Jones emphasized that Colorado residents want a clean, renewable energy future, while Hickenlooper touted natural gas as the fastest way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Continue reading

Colorado governor sues to block fracking in his backyard

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There’s a new twist in the ongoing battle over Colorado fracking regulations.

Fossil fuel industry to file counter-suit

By Snob Beerwhine

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a big turnaround from his previously held beliefs, Colorado Gov. Von Lippenschmooper announced April 1 he will sue the fossil fuel industry to try and prevent additional fracking in his backyard.

Sources say Lippenschmooper was surprised to wake up Easter morning to find drilling rigs already ensconced between the pool and the rutabaga patch. Continue reading

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