The US Bureau of Land Management is beginning a new environmental analysis for the Roan Plateau planning area in northwestern Colorado. Development of a new resource management plan and supplemental environmental impact statement will address deficiencies cited in a June 2012 ruling by Judge Marcia S. Krieger of US District Court for Colorado, BLM said on Jan. 25.
The announcement launched a public scoping period through Mar. 30 to identify issues and review planning criteria. Public hearings also will be held on Feb. 27 at BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt, and on Feb. 28 at the Clarion Inn in Grand Junction.
Following the scoping period, BLM said, it will begin drafting management alternatives to be analyzed in the supplemental EIS, and release them for public comment when the draft is complete.
“We will address the specific rulings in the court’s decision through this planning effort, which includes opportunities for robust public involvement,” BLM Colorado State Director Helen Hankins said. “Public involvement will be critical to BLM developing a full range of alternatives to consider in the supplemental EIS.”
But an official from the Western Energy Alliance in Denver questioned the necessity of developing a new RMP and preparing a supplemental EIS. “It's now been over 15 years since Congress mandated that the natural gas on the Roan Plateau be developed,” Kathleen Sgamma, WEA’s vice-president of government and public affairs said on Jan. 28.
“BLM spent an exhaustive 8 years conducting in-depth environmental analysis, and a judge found only minor deficiencies in their plan, which can be corrected relatively quickly,” Sgamma continued. “Rather than making the adjustments and getting on with allowing the development of American energy and job creation, [the US Department of the Interior] has decided to go back to the beginning and further delay economic growth on Colorado's West Slope.”
Needlessly preparing a new Roan Plateau RMP and supplement EIS exemplifies why natural gas production on public lands in the US has declined as overall production on private land has increased dramatically, Sgamma said.
BLM said its Roan Plateau Planning Area encompasses about 73,602 surface and subsurface acres, which are estimated to hold about 8.9 tcf of federally-controlled gas. About 34,758 of those acres are on top of the plateau, holding about 4.2 tcf of recoverable gas, while 38,844 acres below the rim (including cliffs) contain about 4.7 tcf, it indicated.
Rising 3,500 ft above the Colorado River Valley, the plateau and surrounding state and private lands contain about 15.4 tcf of technically recoverable gas, BLM said.
It noted that a series of executive orders in the 1910s set aside government-owned petroleum and oil-shale reserves, including Naval Oil Shale Reserves 1 and 3 on and below the Roan Plateau. The NOSRs were transferred to the US Department of Energy in 1977, which subsequently developed 24 gas wells in NOSR 3 below the plateau with all proceeds going to the US Treasury.
DOE transferred the NOSRs to DOI in 1997 under the National Defense Reauthorization Act, and BLM began developing a Roan Plateau RMP in 1999. The proposed plan went through several comment periods and revisions before finally being adopted in March 2008. Environmental groups immediately sued in response.
BLM held a Roan Plateau lease sale that August and received $113.9 million, a record for a single federal lease sale in the US Lower 48. It issued the leases in September 2008, but subsequently suspended them until questions raised in the lawsuit and Kreiger’s June 2012 decision could be resolved.
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