The county commissioners have endorsed the BLM's preferred alternative, with modifications, for the planned August North Fork gas lease sale.
The county, in its first round of comments on the proposed August North Fork gas lease sale, acknowledged the view of drilling opponents and recommended the BLM consider a blanket deferral of all 22 parcels until BLM completes a new master resource management plan (RMP) for the Uncompahgre Field Office.
The county's second round of comments completed on April 16 abandons the blanket deferral option. Instead, the county "supports the (BLM's) preferred alternative with its stated deferrals (approximately 5,487 acres) and the addition of (other) conditions and deferrals..." Those additions include recommended deferral of seven parcels that involve watershed issues. The BoCC also recommends additional lease restrictions on two other parcels.
A county commissioners' discussion of oil and gas issues Monday brought out constituents who offered their views in hopes of influencing the BoCC's recommendations on two energy development studies. Two environmental assessments (EA), one on the BLM's proposed North Fork August gas lease sale and another on the Bull Mountain Unit field wide EA, were discussed by the commissioners Monday.
North Fork Valley residents Richard Rudin and Sarah Sauter urged the commissioners to "stick to your guns" and back a blanket deferral of North Fork lease tracts.
"Why are we being rushed into this process?" Rudin asked. He explained that he thinks the BLM's review process is inadequate in several respects and that it doesn't capture the impacts of key changes in the oil and gas industry.
Sauter told the board, "I second what Richard has said." She read from written testimony of others stating that the prospect of the lease sale is already hurting the area's natural and organic food producers whose customers "think we are already polluted." Real estate values are suffering, too, Sauter told the BoCC. The county should "slow down and support good management decisions," she added.
David Ludlum, West Slope director for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, told the commissioners that "populist pressure on you to act is understandable." But, "deferral is extremely problematic for the oil and gas industry," he added. A new RMP can take 10 or 20 years to fully complete, he said, and then litigation is common. Energy companies can't operate with those kinds of delays, he pointed out.
Blanket deferral is a convenient way for energy opponents to "brand a lease sale," but it misses the nuanced points at issue in energy development, Ludlum said
The commissioners stated their support for responsible energy development. "The (BoCC) wishes to reiterate its recognition of the importance and value of exploration and development of energy resources to the local and state economies," says the county's concluding remarks on the North Fork sale EA.
At their meeting Monday, county commissioners also completed official comments on the Bull Mountain Unit field wide EA. The area in Gunnison County is being explored and developed primarily by SG Interests of Houston, Texas.
Cedaredge resident Loretta Molitor said that oil and gas development in the Upper Gunnison Valley endangers the air quality of the Lower Gunnison Valley.
Sauter said the Bull Mountain development itself exceeds projected energy development activities outlined in the BLM's current RMP — a reason to await the new RMP's completion.
Ludlum countered that the projections Sauter referred to are not in any way a cap or a limit on exploration and development activities.blog comments powered by Disqus