Fram drilling plan elicits strong opinions

In an at times contentious meeting on a very contentious topic, one thing was certain: The Bureau of Land Management’s comment period for the Fram Whitewater Project’s preliminary environmental assessment ends Wednesday.

“So make your comments!”

This lifted above the chatter of raised voices at Thursday night’s community meeting sponsored by Citizens for Clean Air and Western Colorado Congress of Mesa County. Conceived as a means “to discuss the impacts of the proposed oil and gas drilling project at Whitewater,” according to Citizens for Clean Air, the meeting drew almost 100 people with variegated opinions about oil and gas development.

At issue was the proposal by Fram Operating LLC, a Norwegian company, to drill up to 108 oil wells from 12 new well pads over a four-year period in northern Whitewater.

“Those are your resources,” said Frank Smith, director of organizing for the Western Colorado Congress. “How best they should be developed, if they should be developed. We do believe responsible development is the best way forward.”

Representing Citizens for Clean Air, Karen Sjoberg expressed concern that oil and gas operations would increase amounts of ground-level ozone, “which is a major contributor to our air quality problem,” she said, adding that the Grand Valley is close to exceeding national safety standards for ground-level ozone levels.

“Residents of the Grand Valley need to understand the long-term effects (of oil and gas development,” said Duke Cox of the Western Colorado Congress. “We have to insist that only best practices are used, we have to insist that every company that treads the path to developing our resources knows it is a narrow path.”

Many who attended Thursday’s meeting, however, voiced concern about what they said they perceived as misinformation about oil and gas development, its technological advances and environmental safeguards.

“I’ve been in the oil and gas industry for 35 years and the changes have been phenomenal,” said Nick Nickerson. “This is my job and for the last 12 years I’ve lived in Whitewater. I missed my first house payment because of the oil and gas slowdown. And I’m 57 years old. It’s the only industry in the world that a guy with my education, just finished high school, can make $150,000. I’m just tired of the way things are going.”

The Bureau of Land Management’s comment period for the Fram Whitewater Project preliminary environmental assessment ends Wednesday. For more information, to comment or to read the assessment, go to http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo.html.

There will be a community meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at Z’s Orchard, 315 33 3/4 Road, to discuss how Fram’s proposal to use C Road to access drilling sites will affect the Fruit and Wine Byway.


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