Environmental groups join legal fray over Fort Collins fracking ban

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.

Grassroots activists stand up to industry ‘bullying’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fort Collins residents who passed a temporary five-year fracking ban last year will get some help in their legal showdown with the fossil fuel industry.

A trio of from from environmental groups — Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, the Sierra Club and Earthworks filed a motion to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit against the City of Fort Collins.

The Association is trying to overturn a five year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”  The Fort Collins moratorium on fracking passed as Ballot Measure 2A with 56 percent of the vote in November 2013. Continue reading

Colorado wary of greater sage-grouse listing

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Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

State officials want to balance fossil fuel development with wildlife conservation

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite the fact fossil fuel development is devastating wildlife habitat in northwest Colorado, state officials are pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list.

In a press release, Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s office described  oil and gas drilling as “vibrant economic activities,” and touted voluntary conservation activities shaped by local stakeholders as an alternative to a federal conservation plan.

“Given the unique landscapes and natural resources in Colorado, a Colorado-based solution is more practical that one handed down by the federal government,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We hope the Bureau of Land Management will look at the public-private partnerships that have been so successful in Colorado as a model on how to get things done.” Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Forest Service withdraws drilling approval

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Oil and gas drilling roads and pads spread across western Colorado like a spiderweb. Bob Berwyn photo.

Community groups challenge agency’s environmental review shortcut for project in elk habitat

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An attempt by federal land managers to rush approval for oil and gas drilling in Colorado was thwarted by watchdog groups, who challenged the U.S. Forest Service over permits for drilling on the Gunnison National Forest.

Following an appeal by the Western Environmental Law Center, filed on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy Community, The Paonia Ranger District withdrew its earlier OK. The appeal claimed that the USFS had failed to complete mandatory site-specific environmental analysis of drilling impacts. Continue reading

Colorado: Wildlife experts to offer update on mule deer studies

Mule deer in winter. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Mule deer in winter sagebrush habitat. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say they want feedback from public

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With several extensive research projects on northwest Colorado mule deer populations under way, biologists say they want to update the public on those efforts. A long-term trend of declining populations has spurred several studies, as scientists look at predation, food supplies and energy development as possible factors.

To discuss their findings so far, wildlife managers are inviting the public to a presentation with biologists, researchers and wildlife officials, Wednesday, May 29 at 7 p.m. at the Mountain Valley Bank, 400 Main Street in Meeker. 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: 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

Audit shows gaps in USFS oil and gas leasing programs

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Draft oil and gas leasing map on the White River National Forest.

Report questions agency’s readiness for potential spills

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service needs to tighten up its oil and gas leasing program, including procedures for reporting spills and monitoring cleanups, according to a new report from the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General.

Along with illustrating weaknesses in the Forest Service’s oversight of oil and gas drilling on national forest lands, the report also noted that the agency needs to work more closely with the Bureau of Land Management to streamline the permitting process on national forest lands. 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

Colorado: Sen. Bennet introduces measure to resolve wrangling over oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide

This map shows the overlap of roadless areas and oil and gas leases in Western Colorado's Thompson Divide area.

This map shows the overlap of roadless areas and oil and gas leases in Western Colorado’s Thompson Divide area.

Withdrawal would protect some areas while honoring existing leases and create a path for buying back leases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) says there’s overwhelming local support for his bill to resolve management of the 221,000-acre Thompson Divide, where conservation groups have long sought protection from potential oil and gas development.

According to Bennet, his bill would protects the land and  local economies tied to it from future energy development, while also acknowledging and respecting the rights of current leaseholders.

“This bill to manage the pristine Thompson Divide area reflects the voices of stakeholders and Coloradans in the surrounding communities who live, work, and recreate in the area and rely on it for their livelihoods,” Bennet said in a statement. Continue reading

Colorado: State, industry and federal officials tracing underground pollution plume near Parachute

Parachute Colorado

Officials say a “hydrocarbon” plume of underground pollution hasn’t yet threatened Parachute Creek, four miles north of Parachute, in western Colorado.

Possible oil spill may be getting close to groundwater in the area

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State, local and federal officials are tracking a mysterious underground plume of what they are calling “hydrocarbon” pollution near Parachute, Colorado.

The pollution was first reported March 6 during construction activities in the area and confirmed March 16 by the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, which said in a prepared release that Parachute Creek has not been impacted and that there are no known threats to health and safety.

The construction activities involved locating underground pipelines – a standard safety practice prior to construction. Continue reading

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