At the recent Paonia Town Council meeting, the BLM is on record stating that coal leases in the North Fork would be at risk were they to cancel the proposed 20,000+ acres natural gas lease sale this February. This is blatant lie.
A review of the BLM's own Environmental Assessment documentation makes clear that no relationship exists between the two operations and that permitting activities in one area are separate from those in the other. It is obvious that the BLM is attempting to divide the community by creating friction between the overwhelming majority of valley citizens opposed to gas activities and those who derive their livelihood from coal. This is an artificial schism that should not be created. Withdrawal of the proposed gas leases will not affect coal mining activities now or ever and it is unbecoming of a government agency to stoop to this level in advancing its agenda.
Fabricating social frictions is a sign of desperation and makes me wonder what underlies the BLM's agenda here. Why the mad press to lease? Helen Hankins, the state BLM director, stated that the rush to drill is all about energy independence. A nice sound bite to be sure, but unfortunately still a lie, one designed to tap into patriotic feelings of social sacrifice in service of country. If only it were accurate. At this moment, there are plans to develop 16 massive liquid natural gas terminals on our coasts to ship our gas to ports overseas for use by other nations in advancement of their own economies. Were this all about energy independence, the gas taken from here would stay here and there would be strong legislation to ensure so. Regrettably, this is not the case. No. The rush to drill is not about America, but is rather about large future profits for a few companies and a few already wealthy individuals. Those of us here at ground zero suffer the consequences and long legacy of unbridled gas development while a tiny few are enriched. It has been the same story throughout American history with government often abetting the interests of the private sector at the expense of the public. This is a poor calculus indeed. The BLM is charged with proper stewardship of our public lands. Their actions here are hardly the way to effect this.