It is unfortunate that Delta's Board of County Commissioners has decided to abandon their request for a deferral of leasing due to the outdated RMP. (County will abandon lease deferral option, DCI 4/4/12.)
In doing so, the BoCC has taken the path of least resistance, and it's a poor one.
One would think that the BoCC would want the BLM and the county to have as complete and detailed information as possible to help both entities determine what steps they need to take to protect the county from the gas and oil industry's negative impacts. The 1989 RMP is based on an older environmental impact statement which provides a very poor base on which to ground such an important decision as leasing 30,000 acres surrounding our towns. To conclude that focusing on specific issues with individual parcels will adequately deal with the impacts of this industry ignores the mounting evidence of damage it causes in the communities where it operates. For one thing, this approach is reductionist and almost entirely ignores cumulative impacts. The environmental impact statement in the new RMP, on the other hand, will presumably require that the BLM investigate cumulative impacts and how they will affect the local economy, communities and our natural resources. The BoCC should be anxious to take full advantage of the NEPA process so that it can be armed with information it needs.
I also take issue with Bruce Bertram's statement that the comments from the North Fork are being groomed to play a role in litigation. The people of Delta County who are writing letters are doing so out of a great concern of what will come of their towns, jobs, property values, and air and water quality. The attempt to write off the very legitimate concerns of county citizens and their sincere effort to protect what is important to them is pitiful and needs to stop.
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