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Environment: Activists ramp up campaign against seismic airguns

Oil-probing technology could harm marine mammals, affect fisheries

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tourism and fishing-dependent communities along the East Coast of the U.S. are banding together to voice concerns about seismic airgun testing. According to Oceana, an ocean conservation group, 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations all say the use of airguns to conduct these seismic tests threatens fish populations and profitable fisheries.

Six coastal towns have also passed local resolutions opposing the use of airguns. (Cocoa Beach, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Nags Head, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ). The loud and constant undersea thumping may decrease the catch rates of certain fisheries, potentially threatening a billion-dollar industry that supports thousands of jobs.

At issue is the use of loud acoustic devices that help energy companies probe for oil beneath the seafloor. Federal officials recently adopted a final proposal that would allow the use of this controversial technology in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Continue reading

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Colorado: Conservation group challenges BLM decision to ‘suspend’ Thompson Divide oil and gas leases

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Wrangling continues over oil and gas leasing in Colorado.

Appeal asks state BLM director to let leases expire

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation advocates are challenging a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to extend the life of several oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area of Colorado’s White River National Forest.

The leases have been unused for 10 years and were illegally sold to begin with, according to Earthjustice, which is filing the administrative appeal on behalf of Wilderness Workshop.

“Sometimes BLM needs to just say no to the oil and gas industry,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman. “If we can’t keep energy development out of a place like the Thompson Divide, what part of Colorado is safe? We can meet our energy needs in responsible fashion without destroying our most important public lands,” Freeman said. Continue reading

Colorado: More wrangling over the Roan Plateau, as the BLM takes comments for another environmental impact statement

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A view of the Roan Plateau from a NASA satellite.

BLM starts new environmental study for drilling leases in sensitive wildlife area

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With comments coming in on a revised BLM study for fossil fuel development on Colorado’s Roan Plateau, it’s clear that there’s little common ground between the energy industry and conservation groups.

Hunters, anglers and environmentalists want the federal agency to set strict protections for natural resources, while oil and gas companies say the government needs to get on with opening the area for drilling as required under federal law.

A federal court last year ruled that the 2008 drilling plan didn’t consider conservation-oriented options, and that it didn’t adequately analyze the cumulative air quality impacts of oil and gas drilling. The BLM has acknowledged that developing up to 1,500 wells on the Roan Plateau would permanently alter some areas of high quality fish and wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel stakeholders, represented by the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association also submitted comments, explaining that federal law requires the Roan Plateau to be leased and calling on the BLM to make only the specific supplemental analysis required by the court. 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: Hickenlooper’s appointments to oil and gas commission spur concerns from West Slope residents

Environmental impacts from oil and gas drilling are at issue in new appointments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. PHOTO FROM WIKIPEDIA VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Tug-of-war over oil and gas drilling will continue

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Among many other campaign promises and slogans, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper early in his term set a rather unrealistic goal of a 50 percent cut in the permitting time for new oil and gas wells.

Last week, Hickenlooper announced eight appointments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a board charged with overseeing responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

The commission is supposed to balance  efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources and prevention of waste with protection of  public health, environment and mineral owners’ rights.

“Different voices and a united spirit of collaboration are key to the success of the commission,” Hickenlooper said. “We are confident this group will help serve the industry, land owners and the environment well as it navigates through issues that are important to both the state’s economy and protection of Colorado’s beautiful landscapes.”

“Gov. Hickenlooper has repeatedly said he would ‘strike the right balance’ in overseeing the oil and gas industry,” said Elise Jones, Executive Director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The jury is still very much out as to whether this set of appointments meets that important standard or whether instead the balance has shifted away from protecting Colorado’s air, water, wildlife and communities from the impacts of drilling. We will be watching closely and working hard to ensure that this new Commission upholds the Governor’s promise to the Colorado people.” Continue reading

Colorado oil and gas drillers drop challenge to new rules

Oil drillers in Colorado drop challenge to new regs.

Pit liners to be treated as solid waste

By Summit Voice

The Colorado Petroleum Association this week withdrew its petition to roll back one of Colorado’s landmark 2008 oil and gas regulations. Specifically, Rule 905 requires companies to dispose of the pit liners in accordance with state solid waste laws.

The CPA pit liner petition was withdrawn at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) regular meeting on Monday.

“CPA should be commended for its willingness to work within existing COGCC rules,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Michael Freeman. “Rule 905 simply requires oil and gas companies to play by the same rules that apply to other industries doing business in Colorado.  Those environmental laws protect Colorado communities, our drinking water, and our land.” Continue reading

Oil and gas companies sue feds over leasing delays

A schematic gives a simplified idea of how we drill for natural gas.

Court case may heat up the battle over western energy development

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Oil and gas companies have decided to play offense in the ongoing turf war over energy development on public lands in the West. The Western Energy Alliance, representing more than 400 oil and gas and oil producers and related businesses, filed a lawsuit in U.S District Court, charging the delays in the federal leasing program are illegal, not to mention costly for the industry.

Specifically, the alliance claims the U.S. Department of Interior has not met its obligation to issue leases within the legal deadline. The group claims that $45 million worth of leases are locked up in regulatory limbo, and also acknowledges that the lawsuit is a volley in tug-of-war over regulation and environmental protection versus energy development.

In a statement issued Oct. 18, the alliance charged that federal agencies — especially the Bureau of Land Management — are delaying permits, creating arbitrary stumbling blocks to project approvals, failing to issue leases and even canceling leases in some cases. Continue reading

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