The Colorado Department of Natural Resources submitted a protest to the federal Bureau of Land Management today objecting to the BLM's plan to lease the top of the Roan Plateau for commercial drilling on Aug. 14.
Colorado's protest letter reiterates Gov. Bill Ritter's belief that the Roan should be leased in phases to:
· Maximize the economic return to the state;
· Provide for long-term sustainable economies in West Slope communities;
· Encourage improvements in drilling technology;
· Protect the Roan's other natural resources.
"We believe that the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) plan for leasing the Roan next month has serious flaws that must be addressed before a lease sale occurs," Harris Sherman, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, wrote in the protest letter.
"The BLM's plan fails to protect valuable fish and wildlife habitat, will not maximize economic return to the State, and could result in the State not receiving its share of mineral bonuses and royalties.
"The State of Colorado has tendered a plan for the Roan that would accomplish these goals, and this plan has received widespread support from around the State. Nonetheless, the BLM has rejected the State's proposals, and we have no choice but to object to the BLM's leasing plan."
From the Mayor of Glenwood Springs:
Making it clear that the public is vehemently opposed to natural gas drilling on the Roan Plateau, public officials and dozens of citizens gathered in Glenwood Springs Wednesday to celebrate the submission of more than 17,000 letters to the Bureau of Land Management protesting the planned leasing of the Roan.
"For a number of years now, the City of Glenwood Springs has repeatedly requested that the BLM take a slower, more measured and environmentally friendly approach to the Roan," said Bruce Christensen, mayor of Glenwood Springs. "We would have liked the federal government to acknowledge the wishes of local communities but in general we have been ignored, along with the Governor and members of our Congressional delegation. Our hope is that the federal government fully considers what citizens are telling them, again, today with these protests: the Roan Plateau deserves stronger protections than what the BLM is offering."
On August 14 the BLM is planning to lease more than 55,000 acres of undeveloped, wildlife-rich public land on the Roan Plateau, a broad island of natural tranquility amid the vast expanse of industrial energy development between Rifle and Parachute, Colo.
Even though Sen. Ken Salazar, Rep. John Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall have sent letters to the BLM objecting to the leasing, which Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter also opposes, the BLM intends to buck the wishes of the public and sacrifice one of the last tracts of undeveloped, unleased wild land in the Piceance Basin.
Citizens are protesting the leasing because drilling will have permanent impacts on the area's important wildlife habitat, watersheds, and the region's air quality. Most of the natural gas beneath the Roan Plateau can be developed without drilling public lands on the surface. Directional drilling techniques are used elsewhere in the Piceance Basin and are a reasonable alternative to industrializing prized wildlife habitat.
What's more, drilling natural gas on the Roan Plateau won't reduce the price of gasoline at the local filling station, despite claims from oil and gas industry advocates, who are working overtime to confuse gasoline with natural gas. Destroying the Roan's prime wildlife habitat will only degrade the quality of the air, water and recreational opportunities there, while having absolutely no effect at the pump.
"The Roan Plateau is prime hunting and angling ground, and drilling there will irreparably harm elk and deer habitat, industrializing one of the last unspoiled refuges for prized big game species," said Bill Dvorak with Sportsmen for the Roan Plateau. "This is a historic moment in our efforts to protect the Roan because it's the only time in recent memory, maybe ever, that so many people have voiced their opposition to a single lease sale."
Drilling the Roan Plateau could also have serious consequences for water quality and trout streams. Just this year, at least five energy companies have been cited by the state of Colorado for violating rules governing water quality for toxic spills into streams in the area. Energy development will threaten the quality of the plateau's watersheds, potentially contaminating the Colorado River and harming the drinking water supplies of municipalities that rely on the river.
"Again this week we have learned of more creeks and streams being contaminated by chemicals from the gas drilling on and around the Roan Plateau," said Ken Neubecker with Colorado Trout Unlimited. "The BLM's plan is inadequate for protecting this unique resource, jeopardizing the rare trout populations and the thousands of hours of work volunteers have logged to protect these streams. Under the BLM's plan all of this could be lost forever from a single spill in one of these watersheds."
Ten conservation groups have filed suit to prevent the BLM from leasing parcels atop the Roan. Of the more than 17,000 protest letters submitted today, most came from groups involved in the litigation, including more than 13,000 letters from members of The Wilderness Society and 2,300 from Sierra Club members. An additional 1,600 protest letters were submitted by EarthJustice and more than 700 citizens joined a single citizen protest, including several county commissioners and other elected officials.
At least 12 organizations have also filed detailed protests of the Roan Plateau lease parcels including the Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Colorado Mountain Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rock the Earth, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Environment Colorado and Wilderness Workshop.