UPDATED: Remember Rhett Butler’s line to Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind?
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
That seems to be the Bureau of Land Management’s motto regarding the Roan Plateau west of Rifle. Today the BLM has decided to open this unique natural area to oil and gas drilling despite protests from citizens, local governments, congressmen and about everyone else. From the Rocky Mountain News:
The federal government Friday cleared the way for drilling on top of the gas-rich Roan Plateau as early as next year, overriding opposition from conservationists, anglers, hunters and local governments.
The Bureau of Land Management’s decision covers 70 percent of the 73,602 acres of the Roan. The remaining 30 percent, which includes numerous scenic and enviromentally sensitive areas, is going through a public comment period, and a final decision will be made this fall.
Friday’s decision allows oil and gas companies to drill on top of the environmentally sensitive plateau, provided they use modern directional drilling techniques that limit surface damage and protect fish and wildlife habitats. It allows companies to disturb only 350 acres at any given time. After drilling is completed, companies would have to fully reclaim the plot before moving on to the next one.
Companies can immediately begin selecting plots on top of the plateau for drilling, and the BLM likely will auction those plots as early as next year.
Those opposing BLM’s decision can appeal to the Interior Board of Appeals, but the BLM won’t accept any protest or change its decision at this point, said BLM spokeswoman Jamie Gardner.
Sounds a little like a federal dictatorship, doesn’t it?
Here’s what Senator Ken Salazar had to say:
I am extremely troubled with the decision announced today by the BLM.
The top of the Roan Plateau is one of Colorado’s special places, and I continue to believe that this area should not be opened to drilling for oil and gas at this time.
I am also very disappointed that Secretary Kempthorne ignored a request last month by Governor Ritter for an additional 120 days to review the Roan Plateau Management Resource Plan. Earlier this week, I joined the Governor in this request.
Throughout this EIS process, the BLM has failed to establish a pressing need for such a rushed process and immediate development. At every opportunity, the BLM has insisted upon forging ahead in this process, limiting and disregarding public input. The result is that the public and I both remain skeptical, and I will examine all of my options to correct the BLM’s misguided direction.
What the BLM didn’t mention in its announcement was noted in a previous Colorado Confidential article:
-Drilling will continue for at least 20 years
-Only about 21,000 acres out of almost 75,000 may be protected
-Almost 50% of the land can have surface occupancy from well development
-Cluster wells on multi-well pads can be as close as a