US BLM to do more analysis of Roan Plateau development plan
Houston (Platts)--28Jan2013/521 pm EST/2221 GMT
In a land-use dispute dating back to the last few months of the George
W. Bush administration, the US Bureau of Land Management said it would conduct
additional environmental analyses for the Roan Plateau planning area, an
environmentally sensitive area in northwestern Colorado.
The agency's action follows a decision by a federal judge in June to
set aside the BLM's development plan which called for drilling up to 3,000
gas wells on top of the plateau. The ruling came in a suit brought against
the BLM by 10 environmental groups, which contended that the bureau had
failed to sufficiently analyze the impacts on the community and the
environment from drilling on top of the plateau.
BLM spokesman David Boyd said Monday that the bureau would develop a new
management plan that would examine several alternative development scenarios,
including the so-called "community alternative" that calls for producers that
hold leases on in the planning area to access the gas from directionally
drilled wells from the slopes of the plateau rather than the top.
"We're proposing to use a full range of alternatives, from the no-lease
alternative to the community alternative," he said.
In a statement Friday, the BLM said it would issue a supplemental
environmental impact statement to "address deficiencies in its earlier
environmental analysis and Resource Management Plan Amendment identified by
the US District Court for the District of Colorado."
Boyd said the BLM issued a total of 31 oil and gas leases in August 2008
under the current Roan Plateau plan. Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. holds 15
leases on top of the plateau, while Ursa Resources Group, Oxy USA and WPX
Energy hold 16 leases below the rim.
All 31 leases are under suspension and will remain so until the question
of whether drilling will be allowed on top of the plateau is resolved in the
supplemental EIS, Boyd said.
Jim Fenton, a spokesman for Bill Barrett, said the company has appealed
the court decision that caused BLM to launch the additional environmental
analysis of the development project. "We believe the decision was flawed and
BLM's analysis is therefore unnecessary," he said.
"We're glad to see the agency going back to the drawing board to do a
new analysis. The Bush administration's plan for the Roan was grossly
inadequate," said Mike Freeman, an attorney with the environmental law firm
EarthJustice, which represented the plaintiff groups in the suit.
"The agency has a chance to do it right this time and give the Roan the
protection is deserves," he said.
Freeman said under the proposed community alternative, Bill Barrett and
the other leaseholders, by using directional drilling from perimeter of their
leaseholds, would still be able to access 80% of the gas they would be able
to recover if they drilled from the top.
In a statement, Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government affairs
for Western Energy Alliance, blasted the BLM decision to do additional
analysis of the Roan, based on the court ruling.
"It's now been over 15 years since Congress mandated that the natural
gas on the Roan Plateau be developed. BLM spent an exhaustive eight years
conducting in-depth environmental analysis, and a judge found only minor
deficiencies in their plan, which can be corrected relatively quickly," she
--Jim Magill, email@example.com
--Edited by Jeff Barber, firstname.lastname@example.org