Enviros hope for fresh look at Roan drilling

Environmental groups are hoping a new presidential administration will take a new look at the Roan Plateau, possibly leading to reconsideration of the leases that were issued there for oil and gas development.

“We obviously still hope to find a way to have the federal managers back away from leasing the entire area all at once,” said Steve Smith, assistant regional director of the Wilderness Society.

“How do you do that now that the leases have been sold is a little bit more complicated, but it’s not unheard of.”

Clare Bastable, conservation director of the Colorado Mountain Club, hopes the administration of President-elect Barack Obama will take a fresh look at a lawsuit conservation groups have filed challenging the government’s management plan for the Roan Plateau, and that the leases will be revisited.

The groups say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated federal law in crafting the Roan plan. The BLM says it was following a congressional mandate in leasing the area, northwest of Rifle.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and Sen.-elect Mark Udall, both Colorado Democrats, have objected to the BLM’s Roan plan. But representatives for the two said it’s too soon to say what new approach, if any, the senators might pursue regarding the Roan with the new administration.

The BLM auctioned off oil and gas leases for nearly 55,000 acres on and around the Roan Plateau in August, netting about $114 million in bid revenues. Smith said there have been cases in which companies have stepped forward to give up leases, or the government has asked them to do so, with lease bid payments being returned to the companies.

Colorado BLM spokesman Steven Hall said buying back leases for what in terms of revenues was the largest federal oil and gas lease sale outside Alaska would be a “fairly costly proposition for taxpayers.”

Vantage Energy of Denver spent almost $58 million to lease the top of the Roan, the area environmentalists particularly want protected from development. Mark Rothenberg, the company’s team leader for its Piceance Basin holdings, said it’s hard to say how Vantage would respond if asked to give up its leases because it hasn’t been offered anything.


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