Thompson Divide protectors in high gear

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A group opposing oil and gas development southwest of Glenwood Springs has escalated its efforts due to a company’s plans to seek permission to drill there by next year.

Zane Kessler, executive director of the nonprofit Thompson Divide Coalition, told a Glenwood Springs audience earlier this week the Thompson Divide area needs to be protected as a buffer from oil and gas development farther west.

“It’s about our trails. It’s about our water. It’s about our way of life,” Kessler said.

The coalition of ranchers, recreationists, environmentalists and others has been holding what it calls emergency community meetings this week after revelations that SG Interests has met with the Bureau of Land Management to discuss plans to drill in seven to nine locations within the area the coalition is trying to protect. The coalition is trying to keep drilling off about 180,000 acres of federal land in a roughly 220,000-acre area west of Carbondale and extending south nearly to Paonia Reservoir.

Some 100,000 of those acres already are leased. The coalition has offered $2.5 million to leaseholders in an attempt to get them to give them up, and says the money would cover the direct costs of acquiring and paying rent on them. SG Interests has rejected the offer, saying their actual value is far more and the coalition’s ability to raise the money for its offer and to get congressional legislation passed to protect the area are in question.

SG Interests wants to have the BLM group 16 of its leases and two owned by Encana USA into a 32,400-acre leasing unit within the Thompson Divide area. Then it would have to drill just one well every six months across the whole unit to keep the leases from expiring, which otherwise could occur next year.

The BLM has yet to decide on it. So SG Interests is proceeding with plans to drill on the leases to keep them from expiring, said company vice president Robbie Guinn. He said he believes the proposed unit area holds the same kind of reserves it has been successfully developing just to the south.

“We would at least like to drill a test well to see if we’re right,” he said.

Glenwood-area residents fear impacts they say could include heavy truck travel through a town that already can be traffic-choked.


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