Cash offered to protect Thompson Divide |

Cash offered to protect Thompson Divide

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – The Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC) has offered to pay more than $2.5 million to six different oil and gas companies in order to prevent drilling in the Thompson Divide region.The offer was made in letters sent out Tuesday by the coalition to officers of SG Interests, Encana Oil & Gas (USA), Willsource Enterprises LLC & Partners, Falcon Seaboard Oil & Gas LLC, Gunnison Energy Corp. and Antero Resources.The letters offer payments to each company, or partnerships of companies, which hold a total of 44 leases in the Thompson Divide area.The money is to come from a public fundraising campaign, according to the TDC.But the deal is dependent on the passage of federal legislation preventing the issuance of any future gas leases in the area.”We believe this is a reasonable proposition,” said Chuck Ogilby, TDC president. “It acknowledges the investments these companies have made, and gives them a way to support an initiative that has broad community support.” Attempts to contact officers at SG Interests and Antero Resources for comment were not successful.

TDC placed values on the leases after examining available public records. Its offers reflect the amount each company paid to acquire the leases plus monthly lease payments to date, said TDC spokesman Jock Jacober.The amounts cited in the letters range from about $61,623 to Willsource Enterprises in Denver, which holds three leases, to nearly $817,000 to Antero Resources, also of Denver, which holds seven leases.SG Interests, based in Texas, holds 22 leases, the most held by any company included in the offer. The letter valued SG’s leases at $577,838.Under the terms of the offer, the coalition will await a decision by the companies as to whether the deal is acceptable or not.If it is acceptable, the TDC will start raising money for the payment, and simultaneously work to create federal legislation that would forever remove the Thompson Divide area from the leasing inventory.Lacking such legislation, said Jacober, any money collected would be put in an escrow account and the deal would be put on hold. “We’d have a hard time raising money if donors thought there might be more leases issued and we’d have to do this all over again,” Jacober remarked.

The coalition, which formed early in 2009, is made up of ranchers, environmentalists, mountain bikers and others. It has been working for three years to prevent oil and gas development on approximately 221,000 acres of land southwest of Carbondale.The region affected, according to the TDC, encompasses the Thompson Creek drainage near Carbondale, Four Mile Creek near Glenwood Springs, and Divide Creek, which flows into the Colorado River near Silt, plus some portions of the North Fork Valley near Paonia Reservoir.According to the TDC, there are 81 oil and gas leases in all, affecting more than 100,000 acres in the region.Coalition members have argued that the area targeted for oil and gas drilling is too important to recreationalists, ranchers, and the local tourism industry, as well as being a source of clear, uncontaminated water for many residents of the area, for gas development to be

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