Ofﬁcials want prompt review of Roan drilling plan
July 10, 2012
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County commissioners say they’re “heartened” by a recent Federal Court ruling that, despite being a win for environmental groups, keeps federal leases for oil and gas drilling on the Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle in place.The June 22 ruling by U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver sets aside a U.S. Bureau of Land Management drilling plan on the Roan for further review, as requested by several environmental groups that filed a lawsuit in 2008.The plan, approved in 2007, had called for phased drilling, including on the largely undeveloped top of the biologically rich plateau.In her ruling, Krieger said the BLM violated procedure by failing to sufficiently address an alternative that would have left much of the surface of the plateau undisturbed.The alternative plan, which called for directional drilling from the base of the Roan, was endorsed by several local citizen groups at the time.Krieger said in her ruling that the BLM also failed to sufficiently address the cumulative effects of drilling on air quality over time and potential ozone impacts.But the ruling did leave the current leases intact for now. It also left open the possibility that the adopted phased plan could be reinstated after addressing those issues.”We are heartened by (the) ruling on the Roan Plateau,” Garfield County commissioners wrote in a letter addressed to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The letter urged the agency to move forward with the additional studies and to uphold the Bush-era drilling plan.The commissioners, at their regular Monday meeting, voted unanimously to issue the letter calling for the plan to be upheld once the additional studies are completed.”Our county supports the existing plan and the many hours of work that went into the plan,” read the letter put forward by Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “As it stands, the plan will result in the most environmentally sensitive natural-gas development ever undertaken in the United States.”That the leases were not canceled is good news, the commissioners said.”Importantly for our community, which has been hard hit by job loss, the ruling ends the limbo concerning these lands and provides a path to energy development, job creation and revenue generation,” read the commissioners’ letter to Salazar.Jankovsky said the alternative to use directional drilling from the base of the Roan, which would leave the top of the plateau undisturbed, is not feasible.”The technology is not there yet to do that type of work,” he said at the Monday meeting. “This is meant to honor the judge’s ruling and to ask the BLM to move forward.”Jankovsky said similar letters are being sent by Mesa and Rio Blanco county commissioners. Those counties also will be affected by the Roan decision.In other gas-industry business at the Monday meeting, commissioners:• Unanimously approved a request by Williams Production and WPX Energy to expand the Parachute Creek Gas Plant north of Parachute on County Road 215. The plan calls for construction of a cryogenic processing plant, two new electric compressors, decommissioning of eight natural-gas compressors and the addition of an electrical substation.• Unanimously approved two land-use requests by Encana Oil & Gas, one for three new telecommunications facilities at the company’s North Parachute Ranch property and the second for a material handling and water-impoundment facility in the Hunter Mesa area southeast of Rifle.