Energy Office now open |

Energy Office now open

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Bureau of Land Management director Kathleen Clarke paid a visit to Glenwood Springs Thursday to help launch the Glenwood Energy Office, a collaboration of the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies.The Glenwood office is one of seven pilot offices around the country funded by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and intended to streamline permitting for oil and gas drilling.

The seven offices account for 70 percent of all the applications for a permit to drill for federal minerals, Clarke said, and include offices in Farmington and Carlsbad, N.M., Rawlins and Buffalo, Wyo., Miles City, Mont., and Vernal, Utah.The Glenwood BLM office has seen a significant increase in the number of applications it’s issued. In 2004, it processed 186, and this year expects that number to reach 413.”The United States is facing an ever-widening gap between its consumption of energy resources and production rates,” Clarke said. Much of that production will come from the Rocky Mountains, which are estimated to contain 140 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, “enough to heat 55 million homes for 45 years.”While Congress, in passing the Energy Policy Act last year, sent a message to BLM to step up gas production, Clarke said the agency also intended to “be good land stewards. I don’t see them as being mutually exclusive.”The pilot offices also give BLM and the Forest Service “a unique platform” to work together, said Forest Service Deputy Director Sally Collins.

Oil and gas development in the region is a special challenge, said Larry Svoboda, director of the National Energy Policy Act (NEPA) Program of the Environmental Protection Agency.”We’re not in the middle of Oklahoma, we’re in the Rockies,” he said. “We want to be able to see Mount Sopris.”Sharing duties between BLM, Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife will be an opportunity to bring creativity to dealing with oil and gas development issues, said BLM Glenwood Springs field office manager Jamie Connell.”Now we will be able to look at new ways of getting things done. I think we’re being encouraged to be creative,” she said.Besides processing the permit applications, some of the 27-person staff will monitor drilling requirements in the field, Connell said. BLM will also hire a consulting company to provide monitoring this summer.

Connell also acknowledged the agency has adopted a provision of the Energy Policy Act, the so-called “categorical exclusion” of NEPA requirements, that will be continued in the energy office. The exclusions are now applied to additional wells proposed to be drilled on existing well pads that have received environmental assessments and been open to public comment period, in the last five years.”In no way does the categorical exclusion relieve us from being in compliance with environmental laws,” Clarke said. “It was intended to eliminate some paperwork.”The new office is located at 2425 S. Grand Ave., in the former offices of the Social Security Administration.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext.

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