From The Durango Herald:
The Bureau of Land Management has extended the public comment deadline for an environmental assessment of more than 12,000 acres in Southwest Colorado that are proposed for natural-gas and oil-lease sales.
The new deadline to comment is Oct. 2.
The parcels are in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Miguel counties and about 64 percent of the federally owned minerals are under privately owned land.
Eight parcels, or 10,761 acres, are in La Plata County near Hesperus.
The Bureau of Land Management will incorporate public comments into a final environmental assessment. The final assessment will provide the basis for the BLM’s decision whether to lease the parcels and under what stipulations.
The parcels will potentially be offered for lease in February.
“We are extending the comment period to ensure that we receive applicable information regarding resources on these parcels,” Connie Clementson, BLM Tres Rios field manager, said in a news release.
The nonprofit San Juan Citizens Alliance submitted comments criticizing the BLM’s environmental assessment because that analysis is based on a 1985 Resource Management Plan. The BLM has spent years working on a new management plan that is scheduled to be complete next year.
“We believe that any significant project such as this leasing decision, should not progress until the completion of (the BLM’s) Resource Management Plan,” the San Juan Citizens Alliance said in a statement released Tuesday. “The public provided thousands of comments in the shaping of the (management plan) and rightfully should be afforded the respect of the completion and use of the plan and as a guiding document for approval and design of all BLM-related projects.”
The San Juan Citizens Alliance and several Durango-area residents said the BLM deferred gas and oil lease sales for certain parcels in Southwest Colorado in 2008 because an updated Resource Management Plan. The BLM should continue to follow its previous reasoning, they said.
Borders confirmed that Southwest Colorado parcels were deferred in 2008, but said she did not know the reason.
Anne Marie Greenberg, resident of Durango West 2 and another opponent of BLM’s approach to the lease sale, started a Facebook page and a petition on the social change website Change.org to spread public awareness about the lease sale. The petition cites concerns about a lack of “proper public comment” and the BLM’s decision not to complete an Environmental Impact Statement. Greenberg’s petition, titled “Stop Fracking in SW Colorado,” had 272 supporters as of Wednesday.
The BLM did not complete an Environmental Impact Statement – a more thorough analysis of the potential environmental effects and risks of a certain action – for the 12,000 acres set to be leased. The BLM’s current draft environmental assessment resulted in a finding of no significant impact, which does not trigger an environmental impact statement.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies are increasingly being used to break into shale beds such as the Mancos, which the BLM environmental assessment cited as a “potential drilling target” for the Hesperus-area parcels.
BLM proposes leasing private & public lands for gas and/or oil development
From the San Juan Citizens Alliance:
Comments needed to ensure analysis of all impacts.
The BLM is moving forward with the leasing of lands in western La Plata County and eastern Montezuma County, primarily south of Highway 160 in the area from Hesperus to Mancos Hill. The proposed lease areas also include parcels adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, next to the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area in Dolores and San Miguel counties and near Chromo in Archuleta County.
We don’t know the geologic formations that are of interest to the companies that nominated the leases (they rarely publicly disclose such information), but there is a high likelihood that shale oil or shale gas are the primary targets.
The need for a thorough scientific analysis, along with a vigorous public process, is not only legally required, but is extremely warranted. Unfortunately, the Tres Rios Field Office of the BLM is doing neither.
If the leases go forward there could be significant increases in heavy truck traffic on the Hesperus/Red Mesa Highway (Route 140), Hay Gulch, and other roads in the area. There are many water quality and use issues, air quality, wildlife and other issues of concern, and project development could bring major changes to the character of the upper west side of La Plata County.
- There are 12,175 acres in the potential lease areas, of which 7,766 acres are private surface ownership, 3,369 acres are federal surface ownership, and 1040 acres are State of Colorado surface ownership. All parcels are entirely federally owned minerals. NOTE that almost 2/3 of the proposed mineral leases would underlay PRIVATE LANDS.
- In 2009, these same parcels were put on hold from leasing pending the completion of an updated Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Those documents have not yet been completed, yet the BLM is now proceeding with leasing based on the clearly outdated 1985 RMP and 1991 EIS.
- Although this is a huge issue for the communities that would be impacted by development, the BLM has made minimal efforts to get those communities’ input as well as to inform the public in general.
PLEASE CONTACT BLM IMMEDIATELY
- BLM cannot proceed with the proposed development based upon 27-year-old analyses, especially when the updated planning documents will be completed later in 2012.
- There is inadequate air quality, wildlife, threatened and endangered species, soil and water, cultural, transportation, socio-economic and environmental justice, and recreation and visual resource impact analysis. The reality that the BLM has proposed not leasing only 60 acres (.5 %!!!) of the industry-proposed 12,175 acres is sufficient information to note that their analyses of the nominated lease parcels in nothing less than inadequate.
- The opportunity for public comment has been compromised by BLM’s lack of general noticing of the release of the EA, the proposed actions, and an associated “public” meeting.
The BLM is accepting written comments through September 17, 2012 regarding the Preliminary Environmental Assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact. Please submit comments by mail to: Tres Rios Field Office, Attn: Lease Sale, 28211 Highway 184, Dolores, CO 81323, or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The EA and associated maps are available here.
For additional information, please contact Josh Joswick at
970 259-3583 or email@example.com
San Juan Citizens Alliance is a grass roots organization dedicated to social, economic and environmental justice in the San Juan Basin. We organize San Juan Basin residents to protect our water and air, our public lands, our rural character, and our unique quality of life while embracing the diversity of our region’s people, economy and ecology.
Thousands of acres could be leased for gas, oil projects
The Bureau of Land Management has released a preliminary environmental assessment of more than 12,000 acres in Southwest Colorado that are potentially set to be leased for natural-gas and oil development. Eight of the 12 parcels, encompassing 10,761 acres, are located in La Plata County near Hesperus.
The BLM is accepting public comment on the 117-page environmental assessment until Sept. 17. The agency will incorporate those comments into a final environmental assessment, which will provide the basis for the BLM’s decision whether to lease the parcels and under what stipulations.
The assessment outlines potential effects of leasing and development that include impacts on wildlife, soil, water and air quality.
The document indicates that “potential drilling targets for (Hesperus) parcels are Mancos Shale and deeper.” In recent years energy companies have been increasingly eyeing the Mancos Shale, a formation that hasn’t been developed previously but could potentially yield both oil and natural gas.
Jimbo Buickerood, public lands coordinator with the San Juan Citizens Alliance, outlined several concerns the nonprofit has with the BLM’s environmental assessment.
The most glaring is the fact that the assessment is based on a 1985 Resource Management Plan which is now outdated, Buickerood said. A resource-management plan acts as a guiding document for BLM projects and decisions.
The BLM has spent years working on a new management plan that is scheduled to be complete next year. The agency should wait until it has a more current document with up-to-date data to guide its environmental assessments, Buickerood said.
Waiting for the completion of the management plan would hold up the BLM’s work on the ground, said Shannon Borders, a spokeswoman for the BLM’s Tres Rios Field Office, which covers Southwest Colorado.
With about 70 percent of the leases located on private property, potential drilling also would affect many local landowners, Buickerood said.
All leaseholders who purchase natural-gas and oil leases must apply for drilling permits before they can develop on the land. The BLM would then be required to go through another environmental review process in line with the National Environmental Policy Act.
That process would mean it would be two to three years for development to occur after a lease sale, Borders said. The leases are scheduled to be offered in a competitive sale in February 2013.