The Bureau of Land Management abruptly changed course a second time last week and, just as the agency did last May, removed North Fork Valley mineral lease parcels from its scheduled Feb. 14 auction.
Also, just as in the deferral last May, the agency did not give specific reasons for making the move.
In brief news releases of last May and on Feb. 6, the agency said that it would “conduct additional analysis” on the deferred parcels.
The agency’s reversal comes just two weeks after state and regional BLM officials said they had heard nothing new during a visit here and were committed to following through with their lease sale public process for the Feb. 14 auction.
At a Jan. 23 meeting of the Oil-Gas Collaborative Group in Montrose, the BLM’s southwest regional director Lori Armstrong said, “We will stick with the process on the (North Fork) lease sale.”
State BLM director Helen Hankins told the Oil-Gas Group that in meetings with local media and at community sessions in Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia she had encountered “much of what we have already heard. Some people were knowledgeable and some reacted emotionally.”
Armstrong agreed with Hankins that the BLM’s January meetings here had reproduced information already seen during the public process preceding the sale.
Hankins also said, “There was inflexibility and unwillingness to acknowledge the views of others. This was especially true in Paonia.” She added that the phenomenon is “worrisome because it makes collaboration difficult. There is a segment (of leasing opponents) that is intransigent. But sometimes you just have to work through these things.”
Armstrong told the Oil-Gas Group that during their January community meetings in the North Fork Valley, the BLM officials were approached by individuals who said they are not opposed to drilling, but “who are intimidated... and who don’t want to speak in public, but (are willing) to speak in private.”
At the Jan. 23 session in Montrose, Bagley said, “Stopping the BLM’s leasing won’t stop energy development in the North Fork. That is due to the large amount of private minerals in the North Fork.”
Armstrong expanded on that assessment noting that six townships including Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Crawford contain 44 percent private ownership of both surface and mineral rights which can be developed with no federal involvement. Bagley added, “Those communities should start planning now for impacts from minerals exploration and development.”
The Oil and Gas Collaborative Group, a local forum of industry, government, and environmental interests, is an offspring of Delta County government’s desire to create an issues forum to solve problems, as the North Fork Coal Working Group has done. The Jan. 23 meeting was attended by all three Delta County commissioners and the county administrator. The group is chaired by Commissioner Bruce Hovde.
In addition to the state and regional BLM managers, also attending were the session were the local Montrose field office manager and other Uncompahgre Field Office staff, along with three Forest Service officials including the GMUG forest supervisor. Industry representatives from Gunnison Energy Corporation and SG Interests were present, as was the director of Paonia’s Conservation Center.blog comments powered by Disqus