Judge’s ruling means second look for Roan drilling plan

A federal judge has found fault with the Bureau of Land Management’s planning and analysis leading to its leasing of more than 50,000 acres on the Roan Plateau outside Rifle for oil and gas development.

In a 38-page ruling in a lawsuit by conservation groups, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that the agency failed to adequately address an alternative that would have kept drilling off the plateau top by making use of directional drilling from surrounding lands. It also failed to sufficiently consider cumulative air quality impacts in conjunction with anticipated development in the region, or to adequately address ozone impacts.

Krieger’s order sets aside the BLM planning decision leading to the 2008 leasing and remands the matter back to the agency for further action.

“We’ll be reviewing the decision,” Colorado BLM spokesman Steven Hall said.

Four companies leased the acreage in question in 2008. Bill Barrett Corp. holds the largest amount of lease acreage, and all of the acreage on top of the plateau, the area environmentalists are most concerned about protecting.

The leases have been on suspension pending resolution of the litigation.

“What’s important here is that the Roan is one of the gems of Colorado. It’s now going to get a second look, and we hope protected,” said Michael Freeman, one of the attorneys representing conservation groups in the litigation.

“This ruling really gives the Roan a second lease on life.”


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