Talks yield no accord on Roan leasing

Daylong talks failed to result in a settlement Friday of a lawsuit over oil and gas leasing on the Roan Plateau, an attorney for conservation groups says.

However, another settlement meeting is likely, said Mike Freeman, an attorney for Earthjustice, which is representing the Colorado Environmental Coalition in the lawsuit.

Also, Freeman said the Bureau of Land Management is planning to suspend the leases in question while the talks continue.

That will continue to result in no drilling-related activity on the lease parcels during ongoing negotiations, while at the same time extending the life of the leases until the matter is resolved, he said.

The lawsuit challenges the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing of 55,000 acres on and surrounding the Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle in 2008.

Friday’s talks occurred as a result of a U.S. District Court order. Colorado BLM spokesman Steven Hall declined comment Friday, as did a representative for Bill Barrett Corp., which owns a 90 percent interest in the leases for the plateau top, the focus of the drilling controversy.

Meanwhile, attorneys for conservation groups and Barrett continue to debate issues in court filings.

In August, Earthjustice attorneys said Barrett documents indicated it plans to drill up to 3,200 wells atop the plateau, 15 times the projection the BLM used in analyzing the impacts of oil and gas development there. They say the documents bolster the lawsuit’s contention that the BLM violated the law by failing to evaluate the full environmental impacts of reasonably foreseeable development on top of the plateau.

Barrett responded that its well projection referred to how many wells would be needed to develop an estimated 4 trillion cubic feet of underlying gas reserves over a period that would likely extend several decades beyond the BLM’s 20-year planning window.

If wells are proposed beyond the projections of the current plan, the BLM may be required by federal law to amend that plan, Barrett said.

In a new court filing, however, Earthjustice attorneys say that Barrett on Sept. 30 again laid out a strategy to drill more than 3,000 wells, and also showed it occurring in just 20 years.


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