Panel: BLM should address issues in Roan drilling order

The Bureau of Land Management should address issues raised by a federal judge who halted planned drilling on the Roan Plateau, but do no more than that, an advisory panel said Thursday.

Because the vote was unanimous, the resolution of the Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council will be sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger’s 2012 order “does not require BLM to ‘start over’ for the Roan Plateau plan,” the council said in the resolution.

The council refused to set a deadline, however, for the completion of a supplemental environmental impact statement tailored to address the deficits Krieger identified.

Though David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado and Gas Association, asked that the council urge the bureau to act in a “timely fashion” on the environmental study, the council offered no suggested timeline.

A draft plan is scheduled for release in December 2014.

Under the most optimistic schedule, the environmental study will take two years to complete and the earliest that drilling might begin would be in three years, officials said. The study is to address air quality, rare plants and lands with wilderness characteristics.

Much of what the environmental study might take into account could well be rendered obsolete by advances in drilling technology, said Doug Dennison of the Bill Barrett Corp., which owns the leases on top of the plateau.

The disputed territory was transferred to BLM jurisdiction in 1997, away from the Energy Department, which had managed it as a naval oil shale reserve.

Drilling on the Roan Plateau has implications for surrounding communities, which have voiced fears that their shares of federal lease money from the 2008 sale might have to be returned if the leases are canceled.

Krieger’s order took note to point out that the leases were not canceled.

The advisory council in 2008 supported leasing and a member of the board at that time, Charles Kerr of Grand Junction, said that sentiment hasn’t changed.

“Do it right,” Kerr urged the BLM and council, noting that the original resolution insisted that energy development “not materially affect historic recreation, grazing and other uses.”


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