Residents blast Glenwood-area drilling plans

Firm wants to develop its leases in 221,500-acre Thompson Divide

Karen Trulove was happy to move back to Glenwood Springs from the Silt area, where she says she suffered from the impacts of natural gas development.

“And now it’s here,” she told Garfield County commissioners Tuesday.

Trulove was part of a standing-room-only crowd that showed up to object to a proposal by SG Interests to drill on its oil and gas leases on national forest south of Glenwood Springs in an area known as the Thompson Divide.

“I firmly believe that (gas wells) have no place in a wild area. They’re hazardous, poisonous and industrial and they have no place in this area,” Trulove said.

Commissioners held the meeting in part to hear from SG Interests and from three agencies with a say over the proposed drilling — the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Although the county’s role in reviewing the proposal is limited, commissioners have voiced their hopes of preventing SG Interests from accessing the drilling sites via congested downtown Glenwood Springs and Four Mile Road, which isn’t a designated county haul route.

“We feel we have the ability to make that decision,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.

Steve Bennett, manager of the Colorado River Valley Field Office for the BLM, which issued the oil and gas leases in question, said his agency generally doesn’t have jurisdiction on county roads.

However, county Commissioner John Martin said the county couldn’t prevent all access to the lease parcels, or it would represent a property taking.

Some who addressed commissioners suggested an alternative access route via the Divide Creek area to Silt was no less acceptable. And speakers more generally voiced concerns about possible water, wildlife, recreation and other impacts from the drilling.

“It’s not only recreation, it’s our livelihood up there and I just hate to see (drilling) come in,” said Marty Nieslanik, a rancher in the Thompson Divide area.

Ranchers, recreationists, some local governments and others have been trying to prevent drilling in the entire, 221,500-acre Thompson Divide area, roughly stretching from Glenwood Springs to the McClure Pass area south of Carbondale. But more than 100,000 acres already have been leased to energy companies.

Roger Wilson, until recently a state lawmaker representing the Glenwood Springs area, compared the Thompson Divide battle to the one being fought by North Fork Valley residents over proposed BLM leasing there.

He said industrialization of the surface in Thompson Divide would destroy its cultural uses and economic values.

“That makes it unique and different than other forest land in the state of Colorado,” he said.


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