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June 17, 2008 01:27 AM UTC

Lawsuit pending on Bush plans to lease Roan Plateau

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  • by: ClubTwitty

Breaking on the GJ Sentinel:

RIFLE – In what one environmentalist called “a last resort” move, conservation groups said today they plan to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to try to prevent it from proceeding with plans to lease the Roan Plateau near Rifle for oil and gas development.

The announcement comes after the BLM last week said it will lease public lands on the Roan in its quarterly oil and gas lease sale Aug. 14.

Conservation groups including the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Environment Colorado, -n to argue that the BLM failed to consider alternatives that would protect the Roan Plateau’s most sensitive resources, and to account for oil and gas drilling?s impacts on air and wildlife.

“Colorado acted in good faith, trusting in the Bush administration’s promises that it would listen to local governments and those most affected by its decisions, but it has been like talking to a brick wall,” said Marc Ross, with Colorado-based Rock the Earth. “Let’s be clear. This is a last resort,” he said of the planned lawsuit.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall, all Colorado Democrats, are pursuing legislation aimed at compelling the BLM to follow Ritter’s phased-leasing approach and other environmental protections proposed by the governor. They hope to get the measure passed before the August lease sale.

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Most of Colorado’s natural gas is now bound for export, a move that industry favors because it means that they can bank even fatter profits at the expense of Coloradan’s energy bills.  

Although gas drilling companies in the region are sitting on a million or so acres of public lands already leased in Colorado–of which only about 1/3 have yet been put into production–and although many of these same companies admit to having a stock pile of drilling sites that will last a decade or longer (even at the ever-increasing rate of drilling, set to surpass another record for the 8th year in a row) these international firms want to lock up as much public land as they can under the Bush Administration’s lax oversight.  

Lands leased today will be drilled under technology and environmental constraints already outdated.  Since BLM released its plan to drill the Roan (in 2005) extended reach drilling in the tight sands formation of the Piceance have increased exponentially.  

But no matter–if the energy companies can get at the gas at less expense, and with weaker environmental protections, they will.  And that’s just what the Bush administration is attempting to allow them to do.  The State of Colorado (which under current law will not receive one penny form leasing this natural treasure), pure strains of native trout, or America’s largest migratory deer herd, be damned.  All of the BLM’s protective ‘stipulations’ for the Roan’s lands, even its most sensitive watersheds and wildlife habitat, can be simply waived at the agency’s discretion.  

President Bush cares about the Roan Plateau

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