BLM kicks off review of 65 oil, gas leases
The Bureau of Land Management will likely hear plenty at three upcoming meetings as it launches a retroactive environmental review of 65 existing oil and gas leases, an action that potentially could result in leases being voided.
The leases include ones in what’s known as the 220,000-acre Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs, where the Thompson Divide Coalition and other entities are trying to keep drilling from occurring.
All the leases are within the White River National Forest, and involve more than 80,000 acres in total, mostly stretching from De Beque to Redstone.
The BLM on Tuesday said it is beginning a 30-day public scoping period for an environmental impact statement analyzing the leases. These will include meetings from 4 to 6 p.m. April 15 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, 4 to 6 p.m. April 16 at the Carbondale Town Hall and 3 to 5 p.m. April 17 at the Pitkin County Library.
“As a fifth-generation rancher in the Thompson Divide, I depend on this area for my livelihood. If the BLM wants to hear from me in the scoping meetings, I expect they’ll get an earful,” Carbondale-area rancher Jason Sewell said in a news release from the Thompson Divide Coalition.
The BLM is conducting the review because it failed to adopt existing Forest Service analysis, or do its own, prior to the leases being issued. In part due to the new review, it this week extended, by two years, suspensions of Thompson Divide leases held by SG Interests and Ursa Resources Group II, covering more than 30,000 acres in total. The suspensions stop the clock on leases that otherwise could have expired after their 10-year terms due to a failure to develop them.
The BLM previously had granted one-year suspensions for the leases.
The Thompson Divide Coalition, Wilderness Workshop conservation group and some Roaring Fork Valley governments had opposed the suspension requests.
“We’re disappointed that BLM decided to pass the buck again. But if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that BLM is finally initiating a … process that can and should result in the cancellation of illegal leases in the Thompson Divide,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney said in the coalition news release.
Meanwhile, energy companies have been objecting to the idea that canceling leases might be one outcome of the review, which also could lead to modifying their terms or conditions or leaving them unchanged.
An Ursa Resources representative recently said it would contest any attempt to cancel leases, while one with Piceance Energy has questioned the BLM’s ability to void leases with producing wells, as is the case with eight leases under review.