SILT, Colorado - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Friday announced it is starting the process of re-analyzing its resource management policies concerning gas and oil drilling the Roan Plateau north of Rifle.
The agency will begin its required "scoping" process to gather public input, with meetings Feb. 27 in Silt and Feb. 28 in Grand Junction.
The announcement is the latest consequence of a June 22, 2012, ruling by U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger in Denver, concerning a 2008 lawsuit filed by 10 environmental groups challenging the BLM's management plans for the Roan Plateau.
The groups included the Wilderness Workshop, headquartered in Carbondale, as well as the Colorado Environmental Coalition, National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
"We're glad BLM is going back to the drawing board," said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of the Wilderness Workshop. "It has a chance to get it right this time and develop a plan that gives this natural icon the protections it deserves. With millions of acres under lease but not being developed in Colorado, we don't need to sacrifice the Roan."
Krieger ruled that the BLM did not follow protocol when it approved a plan for allowing oil and natural gas leasing on the Roan Plateau under the agency's Roan Plateau Resource Management Plan (RMP), issued in 2006.
The agency has temporarily suspended leases issued in 2008, under the provisions of the RMP, pending the outcome of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), according to a BLM statement.
According to the BLM, the SEIS will "analyze a full range of alternatives, including the so-called 'citizens' alternative," proposed by entities hoping to preserve much of the surface area of the plateau by requiring energy companies to conduct horizontal drilling from places around the perimeter of the plateau.
It's not clear yet how the BLM's announcement will affect an appeal of Krieger's ruling pending in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp., which owns leases atop the plateau, filed the appeal. It has argued that requiring directional drilling is technically and economically infeasible, and requiring it would basically amount to invalidating its leases.
In addition to the BLM meetings, interested parties may submit comments by FAX (970-876-9090), email (email@example.com) or regular mail by writing to Bureau of Land Management, Colorado River Valley Field Office, Roan Plateau Comments, 2300 River Frontage Rd., Silt, Colo. 81652.
- The Associated Press contributed to this story.