Natural resources: Granby, Grand County may protest oil and gas leases
Sky-Hi Daily News
The deadline to protest potential oil and gas lease sales in Grand County is Oct. 24, but local officials who feel squeezed by the pressing timeline may try to buy more time.
Granby Mayor Ted Wang approached county commissioners Tuesday to talk about petitioning the state director of the Bureau of Land Management to defer the parcels for a future sale.
County commissioners also met with officials from the BLM’s Kremmling office to find out more about the parcels being offered.
They are now attempting to extend the protest deadline so the public has a better chance to become educated about the sales and have the opportunity to comment.
Commissioner Nancy Stuart said the county definitely will be drafting a letter to the BLM outlining local concerns and spelling out county regulations pertaining to oil and gas development.
“With the regulations in place, in order for (oil and gas developers) to do anything in our county, they need to go through special use permitting by us,” Stuart said.
The county also might consider bidding on some of the visible parcels, she said. And for back parcels, the county’s special use permits would come into play if a developer ended up having to use county roads.
“If there were any impacts to county roads, they’d have to pay,” Stuart said.
According to BLM spokesman Jamie Gardner, the bureau does not offer protest extensions, but the state director has been known to postpone lease sales in certain areas in the past, such as in Conejos County. The BLM has deferred parcels that have sprung up in counties where for a long time there was no oil and gas activity, she said.
There is no guarantee Grand County will be successful in getting an extension, she said.
The final decision is up to BLM State Director Sally Wisely.
An option commissioners are considering would be to buy certain leases near U.S. 40 and County Road 125, thereby preventing any potential oil and gas development on those parcels. Gardner confirmed it is possible for a county to place bids.
The upcoming lease sale is at 9 a.m. on Nov. 8 at the Colorado BLM state office, 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood. The parcels start at $2 per acre and are awarded to the highest bidder.
The low price of the parcels speaks to their value, Stuart said. In contrast, some parcels have sold for up to $12,000 per acre in Garfield County.
Individuals, agencies and groups who oppose the sales can file a protest up until the Oct. 24 deadline, Gardner said.
Wang criticized the BLM’s “lack of notification and public input in the process” thus far.
Gardner said the notification process takes place 60 days before a lease sale, with e-mails and a letter sent to the county and, ideally, press releases to the local newspapers.
“We always try to go for more public notification every time,” she said.
Wang presented reasons to protest the BLM gas and lease auction in Grand County on Tuesday.
His list includes: Conflict with tourism economy; increased wear and tear on local, county and state roads and highways; no immediate plans by the Colorado Department of Transportation for improvement to state/federal highway infrastructure to mitigate traffic increases due to oil and gas development; lack of county and municipal funding for improvements to road infrastructure; outdated regional BLM resource management plan and an environmental assessment that is 15 years old; environmental issues, including endangered species, wintering and migration corridors for big game, disruption of public use (e.g. hunting, access, etc.), steep slopes, water resources, Colorado River water quality, wells , hot springs, fire risk in beetle-kill forests, invasive species moving into disturbed soils, and riparian/wetland impacts.
Wang and the Granby board also point to a “lack of affordable/attainable housing opportunities for new employees that may be related to the potential future land development” and “social and financial costs of a large influx of transient workers, including: increases in demand for public health, medical facilities, local courts (crime), schools and drugs.”
The Granby Town Board has already expressed its support for filing the protest and is encouraging other towns to do the same.
About 31,000 acres of local public lands are included in the upcoming BLM sale. The land is located a mile-and-a-half north of Hot Sulphur Springs stretching to the Willow Creek Reservoir south of the town, the first such offering in East Grand County.
The BLM is required by law to offer federal mineral estates. The 30 parcels near Hot Sulphur are considered “moderate potential,” for producing resources, according to the BLM’s assessment, but there is no proof that gas or oil will be found there.
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