Rifle City Council still undecided on Roan Plateau Management Plan
RIFLE – As far as the Roan Plateau Management Plan goes, the Rifle City Council is on both sides of the fence while trying to determine its official stance, which its expects to give to the Bureau of Land Management within the next month.One council member is adamant about not allowing any type of oil and gas development on the public lands at all. Another is more sympathetic toward the industry and would like to allow drilling with certain restrictions.At a recent workshop discussion, councilor Judy Builteman was very vocal in her opposition to drilling on the plateau, based on what she’s heard from her constituents.”Every constituent who has come to me on this subject has stated these words, ‘No drilling on the Roan Plateau at all,'” Builteman said. “I feel like we really need to speak out for the Rifle citizens. One of the big reasons I feel this way is that the gas area where they’re drilling is huge. Why do they want to molest that little piece of Roan Plateau that is so important to the residents of this area? Why do they want to disturb it?”Councilor Jeff Johnson says he believes drilling is going to occur on the Roan no matter what, and the city should take steps to ensure enforcement of certain protective measures.”The reality is that there is going to be drilling up there,” Johnson said. “If we come out and say absolutely no drilling, our voice is going to be lost. If we put in a number of ‘buts,’ at least we’ll be heard.”Johnson also pointed out that allowing drilling activity will produce certain economic benefits to the city.”I think it will give us an economic boost that we wouldn’t have it if wasn’t there,” he said.Johnson did express concern about who would enforce the restrictions or regulations if drilling is allowed.Councilor Alan Lambert said that due to the Transfer Act, a 1997 congressional measure that transferred the former Naval Oil Shale Reserves from the Department of Energy to the BLM, that a “no-drilling” option would lead to litigation and eventual drilling anyway.”I think the BLM is going to say (the oil and gas industry) has the legal right to drill,” Alan Lambert said. “But I think we would have more control if we say these are the protections that should be in place, if and when you want to drill.”He also suggested giving out the drilling permits a little at a time.”I think the permits should be given out in increments instead of a shotgun approach to drilling at all ends of the plateau at the same time,” he said.Mayor Keith Lambert, who says he doesn’t necessarily believe drilling is a foregone conclusion, suggested that an agreement to adhere to certain protections of wildlife, plant life, grazing and recreation be in place before allowing any drilling.”We want to ensure that these safeguards are in place first,” he said. “All these things must be taken care of and then – and only then – would we allow industry to move onto the plateau.”Keith Lambert added that methods for documenting the safeguards should also be installed, not only by the industry, but by the BLM.”That way there are checks and balances along the way,” he said.Council members asked staff to draft a resolution restating its views before a final document is submitted to the BLM. The BLM’s public comment deadline is April 11. However, as a cooperating agency in the Roan Plateau Management Plan, the city will be allowed to submit its comments after the deadline.Council members asked staff to draft a resolution restating its views before a final document is submitted to the BLM. The BLM’s public comment deadline is April 11. However, as a cooperating agency in the Roan Plateau Management Plan, the city will be allowed to submit its comments after the deadline.
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