Meis: Plan is a threat to economy
The Bureau of Land Management’s draft plan for managing more than a half-million acres of public land in west-central Colorado would be devastating to Mesa County’s economic future, and the agency should rework and reissue the plan, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said Tuesday.
“There is no bigger thing to impact our economic development in northwest Colorado than that (resource management plan),” Meis said in a meeting with The Daily Sentinel editorial board.
The BLM’s preferred alternative, one of four total alternatives identified in the plan for the Silt-based Colorado River Valley Field Office, would place the greatest restrictions on oil and gas leasing and development. That stance has drawn commendations from environmental groups and criticism from the energy industry and local governments, including commissioners in Garfield and Mesa counties.
Meis said the BLM’s position will hinder private investment, job creation and future economic opportunities in Mesa County.
“Everybody wants to protect the environment. That’s why we live here. But we also want jobs, and you gotta find ways to mitigate the impact,” he said.
In a 10-page letter addressed to Colorado River Valley Field Office Manager Steven Bennett, Mesa County commissioners claim the plan makes inconsistent and contradictory assertions about the economic impact of oil and gas development within the planning area. For example, the letter notes the plan asserts cumulative economic effects will remain the same under all of the alternatives, yet predicts various mineral royalty distributions to counties under each of the alternatives.
Commissioners also contend the plan underestimates the level of potential activity on the federal mineral estate and doesn’t account for new discoveries of oil and gas producing horizons.
Meis’s comments came the same day the BLM agreed to a second extension of its comment period on the plan, after urging from Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.
BLM spokesman David Boyd said the new deadline is Feb. 29. Tuesday had been the previous deadline.
The agency previously granted a 30-day extension, but politicians said more time was needed for stakeholders to properly review the plan and provide input on it.
In his letter seeking an extension, Hickenlooper said more time is needed for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife “to review the exhaustive draft plan and analyze how it would interface with our existing water, air and habitat studies and regulations.”
He also voiced support for a collaborative approach to reach agreement on complex public land issues, such as the one taken in reaching compromise on recently adopted state rules for disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids used in oil and gas development.