BLM offering Western Slope oil and gas leases for sale
Friday will mark the first day of a 30-day protest period for the Bureau of Land Management’s sale of oil and gas leases across Colorado’s Western Slope.
According to a Friday news release from the BLM, the agency’s coming Sept. 26 lease sales are part of a quarterly sale of oil and gas leases, which will total about 80 parcels and some 79,000 acres. Last year, the agency said they sold 103 parcels totaling about 68,000 acres for a total of $5,750,756, which includes rentals and fees.
“Statewide, approximately 30,600 jobs are tied to oil and gas development on BLM-managed public lands,” BLM said Friday in their release. “The State of Colorado receives 48 percent of the proceeds from each lease sale, with the remainder going to the U.S. Government.”
Many of the parcels offered this September by BLM will be in Moffat, Routt, and Rio Blanco Counties. In Moffat County, a large contingent of parcels are near the Wyoming border at or near the intersection of Moffat County Roads 7 and 92. Two smaller parcels are for sale to the northwest near Powder Wash. The town of Dinosaur has several parcels up for grabs near town. Just south of Dinosaur in Rio Blanco County, BLM has three large parcels and a smaller fourth parcel for sale on or near Rio Blanco County Road 64.
BLM is also offering parcels in Routt County with a large group to the northwest on the Moffat County line. At least eight oil and gas lease parcels are for sale north of Routt County Road 82 near Brush Mountain. Routt County has still more smaller BLM oil and gas lease parcels available south of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Hayden near Hillberry Mountain, Holderness Gulch, and Stokes Gulch.
But some conservation groups in Colorado and Utah don’t always make BLM’s oil and gas lease sales easy.
In a September 2018 lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians and three other conservation groups opposing the BLM sales, the environmental groups want a judge to declare a December 2017 Vernal field office oil and gas lease sale and two June 2018 oil and gas lease sales in Colorado and Vernal, Utah unlawful and want them to be set aside and vacated back to BLM. At the heart of the suit, according to Earth Justice Staff Attorney Stuart Gillespie, is BLM’s failure to abide by longstanding air quality laws.
“The primary thrust of the case is the impacts of oil and gas leases on air quality,” Gillespie said. “The ozone issues that we are seeing at Dinosaur National Monument are severe, and that’s something the BLM has failed to consider despite our repeated comments.”
The suit notes the Environmental Protection Agency has formally designated the Uintah Basin — part of which extends into Moffat County — as an ozone non-attainment area under the Clean Air Act due to high levels of ozone pollution.
According to Rangely air quality data found on BLM’s website, Rangely showed safe readings for ozone and particulate matter as of Friday, July 26.
Though a spokesman from BLM declined to speak on the record about any ongoing litigation, the Bureau of Land Management has been a frequent target of lawsuits from environmentalists over the years, with lawsuits filed often after any major BLM land use decision.
In an interview Friday with Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, the BLM spokesperson said the agency has a clear process that allows for public input at every level of the oil and gas lease sales.
“We follow the process,” she said.
Just because BLM is offering these lands up for sale to oil and gas interests now does not mean additional analysis won’t continue as outlined in BLM guidelines as well as state and federal law.
“It is really important for people to remember leasing is just a part of the process,” Shedlowski said. “…Leasing doesn’t mean they’re going to start drilling tomorrow. There are still additional steps that need to be taken.”
Residents wishing to file a protest can find more information online at https://bit.ly/2Z5PlYd or can mail protests to the BLM Colorado State Office, 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215.
Construction of a new terminal at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport has been delayed at least until next year.