Leasing foes propose restricted North Fork energy development

A delegation of residents and businesses is pitching to federal officials an alternative plan for drilling in the North Fork of the Gunnison.

The delegation is hoping to meet with congressional representatives and officials with the Bureau of Land Management.

“We’re trying to be more proactive after having had to be reactive twice,” Jim Ramey, director of Citizens for a Healthy Community, said Monday.

North Fork Valley residents and businesses. most of them engaged in organic farming and fruitgrowing, have said they fear drilling in the area could harm air quality and hinder the valley’s growing agricultural reputation. Residents organized opposition to leasing and have complained that the state office of the BLM has allowed the process to move forward.

The alternative the delegation is hoping to see adopted calls for some areas, such as near schools, to be off-limits to drilling. Others, such as a winery, would be subject to a no-surface occupancy rule.

Under such rules, oil or gas could be developed using directional drilling, so drill rigs wouldn’t sit directly atop the reservoir and the surface uses being protected.

A stakeholders committee drafted the alternative, which calls for six management zones and management to protect views of the area, Ramey said.

The committee included no representatives of the oil and gas industry, Ramey said.

Details of the plan are available on the web at http://www.citizensforahealthycommunity.org.

“The oil and gas industry has a perfectly fine record of advocating for itself,” Ramey said.

The West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association was unimpressed with the North Fork alternative plan.

“Not-in-my-backyard thinking isn’t just a North Fork epidemic but is a North American plague.” Executive Director David Ludlam said. “All we can do as an industry is continue sharing information about where energy comes from and plan for how we can all work together to develop it in a smart and equitable way.”


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