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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

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Colorado: BLM oil and gas lease auction yields $2.1 million

State earned about $158 million from leases and royalties in 2012

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Part of the 4.2 million acres of public lands under lease for fossil fuel development in Colorado shows a patchwork of roads and drill pads in this aerial view from a commercial airline flight between San Francisco and Denver. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even without auctioning off contested parcels near national park lands and in the North Fork Valley, the Bureau of Land Management’s Feb. 14 oil and gas leasing sale netted $2.1 million for 68,897 acres, including rentals and fees. The highest per-acre price was for a 80-acre parcel in Bent County was sold to Martin Oil and Gas, in Uniontown PA for $300 per acre.

Colorado’s share is 49 percent, with rest of the revenue going to the federal government. Royalties, rentals and bonus bid sales yielded more that $158 million for Colorado in 2012. According to the BLM, there are about  4.2 million acres of public mineral estate leased for oil and natural gas development, generating more than $6.5 billion in direct economic benefits in 2011, and approximately $9.5 billion in total economic impacts.

A lease is the first step for a company or individual before eventually applying to develop and produce oil and gas from the BLM-managed public mineral estate. Additional planning, site-specific environmental analysis and public input occurs before drilling begins.

Colorado: Court ruling requires BLM to name companies nominating parcels of public land for oil and gas leasing

A federal judge ruled this week that the BLM must identify companies that nominate parcels of public land for fossil fuel development.

A federal judge ruled this week that the BLM must identify companies that nominate parcels of public land for fossil fuel development.

Judge says the public has a right to know

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a ruling that could fundamentally shake up the way federal officials run leases for fossil fuel extraction on public lands, Senior District Judge Richard P. Matsch this week said the Bureau of Land Management must reveal the identity of companies nominating parcels for the leasing process.

Fossil fuel industry leaders said they hope the federal government will appeal the ruling to protect the integrity of the bidding process. Read the ruling here.

In the Feb. 13 decision, Matsch rejected the government’s position that revealing the names of the nominators would give competitors an unfair advantage. The judge emphasized that the identity of the nominators is important information for citizens seeking to comment on potential lease sales, based on the companies’ past environmental records.

“That contention runs directly contrary to the purpose of the public sale process. Competition in bidding advances the purpose of getting a fair price for a lease of publicly owned minerals,” Matsch wrote. “Moreover, the identity of the submitter may be relevant to the plaintiff and others who may raise concerns about the stewardship records of that potential owner, a factor relevant to the environmental impact of the proposed sale.” Continue reading

Colorado: White River NF to update oil and gas leasing plan

Draft environmental study open for 60-day public comment period

A map from the draft EIS shows areas with surface-use stipulations in one of the plan’s alternatives. Courtesy White River National Forest. Click on the map to see the draft study, including all the maps, online.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A draft environmental study for a new oil and gas leasing plan on the White River National Forest includes alternatives that cut the amount of land available from 416,000 acres to about 260,000 acres and outlines strict stipulations for drilling activities, especially in roadless areas, where no surface occupancy would be permitted.

The draft study is open for a 60-day comment period. After another round of input, Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams will choose from the options outlined in the draft for a final plan. The revision will have no impact on existing leases, Fitzwilliams said.

“A vital part of the planning process for this complex and controversial project is to gather public input.  The DEIS lays out four alternatives for consideration, which were developed after analyzing public comments during initial outreach efforts,” said Fitzwilliams.  “Now we are ready to listen to public comment again as we move into the next phase of this process.” Continue reading

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