Air study pens up Roan plan

by Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management won’t release its long-awaited Roan Plateau draft plan until December at the earliest, and possibly not until after the holidays.

“We don’t have a release date,” said Steve Bennett, the BLM’s assistant field manager in Glenwood Springs. “But it definitely won’t be November.”

The BLM pushed the plan’s release back from August to November earlier this year.

Local environmentalists, who oppose natural gas drilling on the 43,000-acre Roan Plateau northwest of Rifle, say they are not antsy about delays in the plan’s release.

“The anxiety was the BLM would fast-track the plan and cut corners,” said Steve Smith, a field representative for Western Colorado Congress. “If they want to take more time, that’s fine.”

Bennett said an air-quality study that covers an area from Glenwood Springs to Vernal, Utah, is delaying the plan.

The BLM is drafting its first management plan for the entire 73,000-acre Roan Plateau area.

The 43,000-acre Roan Plateau itself juts up 3,000 feet from the valley floor, and is surrounded by 30,000 acres of BLM land included in the planning area.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources estimates the plateau holds 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with about 5.5 trillion being recoverable. The recoverable gas has a rough potential value of $22 billion, the agency said.

Garfield County municipalities from Carbondale to Rifle have passed resolutions opposing gas drilling on the top of the Roan Plateau.

The Garfield County Commissioners in May said the county doesn’t recognize “any compelling need” to lease any further areas on the plateau top for oil and gas exploration “at this time.”

As the BLM’s Roan Plateau draft plan nears, media interest around the United States and abroad has increased.

“It’s being watched quite closely,” Smith said.

The Western Colorado Congress has been meeting with area community groups to tell its story. After a recent Western Colorado Congress presentation in Carbondale, several people later asked the Garfield County Commissioners to help protect the Roan Plateau.

“There’s going to be a land grab, and rush for energy sources,” said Carbondale resident Johnny Weiss after he talked to the county commissioners Nov. 10. “The U.S. needs a balanced approach to energy production.”

The BLM will take public comments on the Roan Plateau plan for 90 days after the draft plan is released.

“We need to remind people this is the beginning of the process,” Weiss said. “This will be a long, ongoing process.”

Bennett said the plan will be available on CD, in print and probably on the Internet.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.