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.


COMMENTS

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I’m amused at the response from David Ludlam. He points the finger at the environmental groups who are concerned about our air, water and soil, and say they are all connected, while he IS the connection between all oil and gas groups. Working together to achieve common goals is bad for environmental groups but good for oil and gas groups?

Ms. Konola, I assume then that you are not FOR the drilling activity, wanting to preserve the entire area for the future. I must then also assume that you are against any mining that would also destroy the entire area here in the West. Then I must also assume you are against our economy rebounding in any meaningful way through the production of energy, whether it be oil, gas, or coal. We can all look at the failures of the government funded solar companies in which billions were given by our president. All have either gone bankrupt or moved operations out of the US and into China, taking with them all the money given without any repayment in the form of taxes.

Please, clarify your views for me. I really hate to assume things, you know how the saying goes!
I’m sure all the voters reading this story would love to hear how you feel about our economy, energy and the environment!

I do know how the saying about assume goes. If the shoe fits, wear it.

Well, Ms. Konola, I am right that you are not for ANY energy industry here on the western slope. Thank you so much for confirming my understanding of your unexplained stance.
And, you are right, it does fit you well.

I haven’t been too impressed either with the reporting on this topic or the various commentaries from either side. I’d like to ask Mr. Ludlam to provide a quantitative assessment of the job creation benefits of the proposed Whitewater activities, including whether anyone from the Grand Valley is likely to get them.  And some estimates of the economic benefits more generally. And it would be really powerful if he’d recognize that there are ‘some’ negative effects and discuss those as well. It would be good if the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association would organize a public meeting to discuss the specifics of the Whitewater activities.

I’d make a similar request to Frank Smith and the other members of the coalition who are accused of slowing the process. What concretely are you concerned about with the proposed activities on this particular piece of public land? Do you have any estimates of what the negative effects might be? What are they? And don’t forget the positive effects. How about an open meeting to discuss? Perhaps in partnership with WSCOGA?

My issue with Fram stems from its financial weakness. Currently financial analysts cannot access their financials on line, but must first phone and ask for them. Previously, when they were available on line, they had a “going concern” comment in their audited financial statements. A “going concern” comment means that their independent auditors did not think they had the financial strength to continue as a going concern. Since I cannot see the current financials I have no way of knowing if that comment has been lifted or is still there. But I do have a problem with giving Fram access to the watershed from which Grand Junction’s water comes without knowing that they have the where with all to clean up any accident. I remember the taxpayers being on the hook for millions of dollars of uranium tailing clean up, and would hope that local governments require some conditions to any leasing permit, regardless of industry, especially when it has the potential to make a mess in our drinking water. I am not against energy development, but would prefer to look to the future and invest in new technologies rather than continuing to subsidize the most profitable industry in the history of the world. In the meanwhile, natural gas is the cleanest energy we have, so we need to develop it, but we need to do it in such a way that it does not reduce local crop yields, increase breathing problems, or harm our clean water resource.

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