Club 20 tries to reverse Vermillion drilling ban

The decision by the Bureau of Land Management to cordon off the Vermillion Basin in northwest Colorado against drilling runs contrary to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s history in Colorado, Club 20 says.

The Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization wrote to Salazar, his brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, whose 3rd Congressional District includes the basin, and BLM Director Robert Abbey, asking for reconsideration of the decision.

The bureau has announced a resource-management plan for the area that would prohibit drilling for oil and natural gas. Abbey said this month in Grand Junction the Vermillion Basin decision will stand.

The problem with that, Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said, is that “it’s absolutely inconsistent with what Ken Salazar stands for.”

The Moffat County Commission wants the BLM to allow drilling under agreements worked out with local officials, landowners and others that would limit surface disturbance drilling to 1 percent.

“It’s our hope that (Ken) Salazar will weigh in here” in favor of balanced conservation solutions,” Brown said.

John Salazar has expressed disappointment with the BLM decision, Brown noted, saying he hoped the congressman could persuade Interior Department officials to change the BLM’s course.

Club 20 and the Moffat County Commission cited the presence of more than 200 billion cubic feet of natural gas trapped below the Vermillion Basin. Producing the gas could generate $700 million in sales and about $250 million in local, state and federal taxes and royalties, the county and Club 20 said.

The issue is larger than the Vermillion Basin, “whether we’ll pursue top-down management by issuing royal decrees from Washington, D.C.,” Brown said.

“This has everything to do with how BLM will develop and manage resources,” Brown said, and it illustrates how a plan developed by diverse local stakeholders “can be trumped so quickly” by organizations that have little or no vested interest in the federal lands but have equal ownership.


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