Bennet’s Thompson Divide proposal gets Carbondale’s OK |

Bennet’s Thompson Divide proposal gets Carbondale’s OK

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Town trustees on Tuesday unanimously affirmed their support of legislation that would protect much of the Thompson Divide area from oil and gas drilling.

The trustees voiced strong support of draft legislation by U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. It would eliminate future mineral leasing for 183,000 acres of the 221,000 acres of federal lands in the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale.

Thompson Divide area already has seen some oil and gas activity in decades past, and several energy companies currently hold gas leases covering much of the acreage not included in the draft legislation.

But local opponents of gas exploration in Thompson Divide maintain that the area is too valuable to ranchers, recreationalists and others, and as a critical source of drinking water, to permit drilling there.

Citing these and other reasons, the Bennet legislation would also specifically permit current lease holders to make arrangements for the “retirement, purchase, donation, voluntary exchange or other acquisition” of existing mineral rights.

This provision is needed, proponents of the legislation say, to deal with existing regulations that require oil and gas lease holders to develop the minerals.

The trustees voted 6-0 in support of what the resolution calls “a middle ground solution” to the political battle over energy development in Thompson Divide. Trustee Elizabeth Murphy was absent.

The resolution specifically endorses the legislation’s goal of withdrawing unleased land, and creating “an opportunity for existing leases to be retired.”

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