Coalition urges BLM to revise regulations
In the face of mounting natural gas drilling in the West, a coalition of ranchers, farmers and conservationists Wednesday petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to revise its regulations to lessen the impacts to landowners.The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the BLM to change its regulations to improve reclamation standards, increase financial assurance bonds, and provide oversight of oil and gas development.Currently, the BLM requires a $10,000 bond for individual oil and gas wells, a blanket statewide bond of $25,000 and a $150,000 nationwide bond.The two organizations contend those bond amounts are not sufficient to cover reclamation of well pads, pipelines and roads and associated installations.”Current regulations do not ensure that oil and gas operators pay the full costs of minimizing environmental damage, or remediating the land, during and following development,” said David Newman, NRDC attorney. “This leaves local landowners, itself to bear the costs, rather than the developers responsible for such impacts. This is both irresponsible and unfair.”For the “hundreds of thousands of (new) wells” projected to be drilled in the future, “the cost of reclamation will be astronomical and likely beyond the means of the federal government,” said Bob Elderkin, spokesman for Western Colorado Congress.Specifically, the petition calls for the BLM to require Geographic Area Development Plans for all oil and gas activity with site-specific reclamation plans and full-cost estimates of reclamation. The new regulations would also specify performance standards for reclamation. In addition, bond amounts would increase to $20,000 for individual wells with an option for a site-specific reclamation bond in lieu of the bond. The new regulations would also improve inspection, monitoring, and enforcement. “We feel the bonding system is very sound,” said BLM spokesman David Boyd. As of January 2005, the BLM had $132 million in bond funds available for oil and gas development impacts such as crop damage or land reclamation.”Only $2.2 million has been needed so far,” Boyd said. “In general, the money is not needed very often.”Greg Schnacke, executive vice president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said the petition is based on faulty logic.”Essentially they’re relying on some sort of logic that tax breaks and easing of (federal) regulations to speed up well permits and that BLM will make it easier to drill wells is absurd,” he said. He also questioned the timing of the petition filing, coming only three days after newly-appointed Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorn took office, replacing Gale Norton.”It’s nothing but political, effectively designed to highlight their political agenda,” Schnacke said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.