Appeal stalls oil drilling by Fram
An appeal aimed at halting a proposed oil project near Whitewater has stalled development on the largest part of the project, though some activity is continuing on private land, an industry official said.
The appeal has had no legal effect on the project by Fram Exploration ASA to move forward with its plans to drill for oil leased by the federal government, BLM officials said.
In practical terms, however, the appeal has stymied development, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
BLM officials “are doing their due diligence,” Ludlam said. “What creates the uncertainty is the obstruction we see in the appeals to the state director and the telegraphing by groups that they are going to tie the project up for years.”
That’s more than what Frank Smith of the Mesa County office of the Western Colorado Congress said the organizations were looking to do.
“We’re looking for conservation and ensuring that key concerns and healthy communities and intact landscapes are addressed,” Smith said, adding that the organizations are asking for a “timeout” on the project.
“No timeout has been foisted on them,” Smith said.
Ludlam called the moves “obstruction” and said they’re intended “to erode the project through the time value of money.”
The organizations that appealed want the BLM to require an environmental-impact statement as opposed to an environmental analysis, and to delay any action until the resource-management plan for the area is approved, Smith said.
Fram is planning to drill as many as 108 oil and gas wells to tap an estimated 8.7 million barrels of oil over 20 years.
Representatives of the Western Colorado Congress, Paonia-based Citizens for a Healthy Community, Citizens for Clean Air in Grand Junction, the Sierra Club and others met last week with BLM officials, Smith and Karen Sjoberg of Citizens for Clean Air said.
“We’re awaiting their response,” Sjoberg said.
“You can see all these groups are connected,” Ludlam said.
The appeal of the project to Ruth Welch, the Colorado state director of the BLM, has no deadline, the BLM said.
Fram has done some drilling on fee, or private, land that it’s leasing, but the heart of the project is on federal land, Ludlam said.
Fram is planning to build 12 pads on 54,000 acres about 15 miles east and southeast of Grand Junction, east of U.S. Highway 50 and north of Kannah Creek Road.
The BLM is shifting the handling of drilling applications to the Colorado River Valley office in Silt because that office handles many more drilling issues.