Federal Lands Oil and Gas Policies
WW is urging restraint in two big planning processes
The document that guides the White River National Forest Service’s decisions on oil and gas leasing was issued in 1993. Twenty years ago, there was essentially no drilling activity in the region, fracking and directional drilling technologies had yet to transform the industry, and Forest planners anticipated only a handful of new wells being drilled. Needless to say, their 1993 analysis is now woefully out of date.
Spurred by a series of technical filings by WW, in 2010 the Forest began the process of updating its Oil & Gas Leasing Environmental Impact Statement. In 2012, WW submitted the conservation community’s technical comments on the draft EIS, a laborious task of research, coordination and writing. (You can download this 76-page document here.) We expect the final release in May 2014.
Meanwhile, the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office is working on the final version of its Resource Management Plan. The office is responsible for 505,000 acres of public land and 707,000 acres of mineral estate in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Colorado River watersheds. This plan will be a guiding document on where, when and how oil and gas development will occur in much of the Thompson Divide and the public lands north and south of the I-70 corridor over the next two decades. It will also establish priorities and policies for all other “resources” managed by the Colorado River Valley Field Office, including recreation and wildlife.
WW filed an exhaustive 160-page critique of the draft plan in January 2012, urging the BLM to take into account the myriad health, socioeconomic, air, water, wildlife, and cumulative impacts of energy development. The final version is expected to be put out for comment this winter; it will probably require a similarly labor-intensive effort.