Gas industry group wants more time to comment on BLM plan |

Gas industry group wants more time to comment on BLM plan

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The oil and gas industry has asked that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) double the amount of time for public comments on the agency’s draft Colorado River Valley Resource Management Plan.

In a letter he sent to the BLM on Nov. 15, David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has asked the agency to extend the comment period from its original deadline of Dec. 15 to a new deadline of March 15, 2012.

The plan, which has been in the works for five years already, lays out the BLM’s proposal for managing a vast segment of Colorado’s Western Slope over the next two decades.

A BLM spokesman, noting that the comment period already is longer than required by federal law, said on Tuesday that the response will come from the agency’s Colorado River Valley Field Office manager, Carl Mondonca, at the Silt field office.

“It is a complex document,” conceded BLM spokesman Dave Boyd, referring to the draft report, which is laid out in three volumes, including numerous appendices, tables, maps and other graphic elements.

Boyd said that, due to the complexity of the subject, the agency decided in September to make the draft available for a 90-day public comment period, rather than the 60-day review mandated by law.

“We wanted to give people enough time to get in there and take a look, and provide us with informed comments,” Boyd added.

He noted that another request for an extension of the comment period, submitted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in early November, was turned down.

“We anticipate responding to this request within a week,” Boyd concluded in an email. “We have to balance a request for more time to comment with the need to keep the process moving forward.”

Ludlam, in a comment to the Post Independent about the request, remarked, “Reviewing the RMP around the Thanksgiving Dinner table is going to be the only option for stakeholders unless an extension is granted.”

In his letter to the BLM, Ludlam cited the potential economic impacts of the plan on the economy of the Colorado River Valley region, which includes Garfield, Eagle, Mesa, Pitkin, Routt and part of Rio Blanco counties.

He termed the resource management plan to be, “In effect … a federal zoning document for 2.8 million acres of land, including more than 500,000 acres of public lands managed by the BLM.”

Most immediately, Ludlam wrote to Boyd, the industry is concerned that the plan “inadequately accounts for the economic and resource opportunities that have been unlocked by significant technological breakthroughs in the oil and gas industry.”

Ludlam specifically maintained that the potential for exploiting natural gas reserves in “previously untapped shale formations within the planning area” is “understated, underanalyzed and unduly restricted” in the plan as proposed.

“When it comes to Garfield County’s economy, we’ve never seen a document with so much potential to impact local businesses,” Ludlam told the Post Independent in an email.

“So we must take the time to get it right and thoroughly review one of the most complex documents we’ve ever seen,” he concluded.

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