No agreement yet in Roan gas development

A second court-ordered settlement conference aimed at resolving litigation over oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau near Rifle has failed to produce an agreement.

Court documents indicate the conference focused partly on the idea of phased oil and gas leasing on the plateau top. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter advocated that concept before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided to proceed last year with leasing the entire plateau top and surrounding areas.

Litigants in the case held another round of court-ordered talks Nov. 20 after negotiations two weeks earlier failed to produce a settlement.

Mike Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the Colorado Environmental Coalition in the lawsuit, said the latest talks had the same outcome, and another meeting is planned prior to Jan. 15.

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.

Freeman said he and other attorneys aren’t allowed to discuss the particulars of the settlement discussions. A court filing shows a magistrate had ordered parties to submit premeeting confidential settlement statements “addressing their positions regarding use of roads on top of the Plateau and phased development/phased leasing.”

The BLM decided against Ritter’s proposal and chose to lease the entire plateau immediately, but it would require gas and oil development in phases to minimize the impacts at any one time. Ritter contended that phased leasing would have better protected the environment and resulted in more revenues to the state.

Bill Barrett Corp. owns a 90 percent interest in the leases on the plateau top.  In a recent court filing, Earthjustice referred to a Sept. 30 Barrett presentation to the governor’s office comparing the phased leasing versus phased development approaches, including their revenue implications. Earthjustice obtained the presentation through an open-records request, Freeman said.

Why Barrett presented it to Ritter’s office remains unclear, and neither Barrett nor Ritter’s spokespeople could be reached for comment.


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