Bennet circulates Thompson Divide draft bill |

Bennet circulates Thompson Divide draft bill

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Local gas drilling opponents expressed support on Friday for draft legislation from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet that, if enacted, would withdraw unleased acreage in Thompson Divide from future leasing programs.

As written, the legislation would not affect valid existing leases, including those in the proposed Lake Ridge Unit area.

But it would eliminate the potential for future leasing on 183,000 acres of federal lands, in an area known as the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Area, according to the draft posted on Bennet’s website.

An officer of SG Interests, a company with gas leases in Thompson Divide and main proponent of the Lake Ridge Unit request, said he does not believe the bill will make it through Congress.

“I think it’s another perfect example of the current administration promoting job-killing legislation,” said Robbie Guinn, vice president of SG Interests.

Bennet is circulating draft language for the bill prior to introducing it in the Senate, and is asking for input from constituents.

“This draft bill is for public comment and open to anyone who would like to share their thoughts,” wrote Adam Bozzi, spokesman for Bennet, in an email. “We’re most interested in hearing from Coloradans in the surrounding communities as well as folks who visit the Thompson Divide or have business that is related to or dependent on the area.”

The bill, along with a map of the area and space for comments, is on the senator’s website,

“Whether or not to move forward with legislation and what the final parameters will look like is wholly dependent on the feedback and support from local community,” Bozzi said.

“Holy smokes, this is important!” declared an email message about the draft bill, sent out on Friday by Zane Kessler, executive director for the Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC).

Kessler urged TDC supporters to log onto Bennet’s website and make their feelings known.

The TDC, made up of ranchers, business owners, environmentalists and recreationalists, has been fighting for nearly three years to prevent drilling in Thompson Divide, which encompasses 221,500 acres of federal lands southwest of Carbondale.

“My business and my co-workers depend on the abundant wildlife and untouched landscape within the Thompson Divide,” said Randy Melton, owner of Avalanche Outfitters in Redstone. “We’re glad to see that our congresspeople finally understand that this isn’t about tree hugging. It’s about protecting our rural economy and our way of life.”

Carbondale rancher Bill Fales, a TDC member, shares Melton’s sentiments.

“As ranchers, we depend on the water from Thompson Divide to irrigate our fields,” said Fales. “And our cattle depend on this for summer pasture. This area is important for a number of reasons and it deserves permanent protection from future development.”

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