Public says don’t drill on Roan
Do not drill the top of the Roan Plateau.That was the message sent loud and clear to Rifle city officials this week from the audience during an informational meeting at Rifle City Hall about the management plan for the public land.Council chambers were full, with four city council members, representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Division of Wild Life, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, oil and gas companies, city staff and citizens from as far away as Grand Junction.”This is an informational gathering meeting so the city of Rifle can formulate their position and give it to the BLM,” Mayor Keith Lambert said at the start of the meeting. “But it’s important to realize your comments must be submitted in writing to the BLM.”The BLM last fall came out with five alternatives for management of the Roan Plateau and announced its “preferred alternative” as Alternative 3, which would allow drilling on the sides and base of the plateau and deferring any drilling on top until 80 percent of anticipated wells below the rim had been completed.Citizens were allowed three minutes each to voice their comments to the council.”This is an extremely valuable piece of real estate, but it’s public real estate,” said Pete Kolbenschlag of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “It’s used to recreate in Garfield County. There should be no drilling on top.”Kolbenschlag questioned choosing any of the alternatives set out, including Alternative 3.”The range of alternatives will have a terrible impact on wildlife,” he said. “A bad decision deferred until tomorrow is still a bad decision.” The coalition is instead lobbying for a “community alternative” which would combine various elements of the management plan alternatives. Kolbenschlag said his group is not against oil and gas development, but it believes the gas could be accessed without drilling on top of the plateau. He said 85 to 99 percent of the minerals are expected to be extracted within the 20 year life span of the plan.”What we’re arguing over is the last 1-15 percent that can be extracted without drilling on top,” he said.While many supported Alternative 3 to allow drilling, but not on top, a few recommended that drilling not be allowed on the plateau at all. Janie Hines Broderick of Parachute, who has a long history of involvement in citizens watchdog groups over the oil and gas industry, called Alternative 3 a “red herring” to put off development of the top for the next 10-20 years.”Although (Alternative 3) looks good, the reality is that it misses the point in terms of resource protection,” she said. “It’s not a perfect alternative, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. I encourage you as authorities and representatives of the people to continue to protect our resources.”Lambert urged people to put their comments in writing either through the city or directly to the BLM. “The city will reconvene to discuss the input and look at the alternatives and options,” he said. Rifle will not hold any more public forums, but the meeting may be viewed on public access Channel 13. Garfield County will also hold an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the hearing room at the county annex building in Glenwood Springs. Another public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 9, in Parachute, at a time and location to be announced.
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