Bull Mountain sides plead their cases

A group of mostly area state lawmakers and a coalition of citizen and conservation groups Thursday submitted opposing comments on a proposed oil and gas project in the upper North Fork Valley.

The Bureau of Land Management received the letters on the deadline for filing written comments on SG Interests’ 146-well Bull Mountain master development proposal southwest of McClure Pass and east of Paonia.

Six Republican lawmakers wrote the BLM a joint letter urging the BLM “to approve the project without further delay,” citing in part the economic struggles of western Colorado and the North Fork Valley.

“Make no mistake about it, the Bull Mountain development is a huge opportunity for western Colorado, and the North Fork Valley in particular,” the letter says.

Those signing it include state Reps. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, Yeulin Willett and Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, and Don Coram of Montrose, and state Sens. Ray Scott of Grand Junction and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling.

Meanwhile, the conservation coalition called on the BLM to give greater balance to conservation issues in considering the project, they said in a news release.

“The groups requested a full analysis of social costs of carbon, including methane and carbon emissions, and urged protective measures such as phased-in development, ongoing air and water monitoring, and greater distance between drilling and water supplies,” the coalition said in a news release.

The Western Environmental Law Center submitted 128 pages of comments on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy Community, High Country Conservation Advocates, Western Colorado Congress, Wilderness Workshop, the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, the Crystal River Caucus, EcoFlight, 
WildEarth Guardians, Rocky Mountain Wild and the Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative.

SG’s proposal covers nearly 20,000 acres.

All but 2 percent is private land, but the BLM is involved because about two-thirds of the subsurface minerals involved are federally owned.

In their letter, the lawmakers say that while the involvement of federal minerals requires that a BLM environmental impact statement be completed, “we do not feel that it is appropriate for any agency of the federal government to dictate to private land owners how they are to use their land.”

SG has surface-use agreements with each of the landowners, the lawmakers noted.

“We believe that these local surface owners are the best stewards of their own land. We also believe that their rights to develop on their land as they see fit should not be trumped by the federal government.”

But Jim Ramey, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community, said in the conservation coalition release, “The North Fork Valley community has again pulled together to request common-sense provisions that would minimize risks to important resources like clean air and water. We need to be sure that the BLM’s oil and gas program doesn’t throw other resource values under the bus. Farmers, ranchers, and business owners from the North Fork Valley join with groups and citizens from across Colorado calling on the BLM to do the right thing.”

Paonia Town Trustee Amber Kleinman said in the news release, “The North Fork Valley has been named Colorado’s farm-to-table capital and a certified creative district. We can’t risk that reputation with more boom-and-bust industry that brings a whole lot of negative side effects.

“We need long-term, smart economic development that will put our economic future in the hands of the community instead of the oil and gas companies,” release said.

Citizens for a Healthy Community is hosting a half-day educational forum on oil and gas issues Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Hotchkiss High School.


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