Roan Plateau drilling opponents question group’s lease payment figures

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Opponents of oil and gas drilling on the Roan Plateau are pointing to figures released earlier this month from a federal agency to criticize claims that Colorado can earn $1 billion in leasing payments if drilling goes forward on federal lands in the area.Figures from the Minerals Management Service, part of the U.S. Department of Interior, show Colorado reaped $10.7 million so far this year in bonus payments – money that winning bidders pay to buy a lease on federal land for oil, gas and coal development. That’s compared to $15.5 million for all of last year. The amount the service collected for all onshore and offshore leasing this year was $893 million.Critics of oil and gas drilling on the Roan Plateau seized on the numbers, saying figures about potential leasing revenue on Bureau of Land Management land on the Roan Plateau are dramatically overstated. In several statements, Golden-based Americans for American Energy (AAE) has said the state could earn about $1 billion from oil and gas leasing on the Roan Plateau.AAE reached its figure by multiplying a high-end acre lease payment, which it pegged at $46,000, and then multiplying the number by the 52,600 acres available for development in the Roan. The final figure is about $2.4 billion – with about $1.2 billion going to Colorado and the other half to the federal government.”If the total bonus payments in the entire United States don’t amount to $1 billion in 2007, I really doubt the Roan is going to generate $1 billion by itself,” said Peter Morton, senior resource economist for the Wilderness Society. “This group has zero credibility.”Morton said the MMS data is an example that the oil and gas industry is exaggerating the potential leasing revenues from the Roan. Greg Schnacke, president and CEO of Americans for American Energy, said in a response statement that debate about drilling in the Roan Plateau is about “money and how much consumers stand to gain from this project.””Folks can debate the estimates of the bonus bid revenues, which we developed with the help of the industry, but there’s no debate about the benefits of this project, which could provide enough clean-burning natural gas to heat 4 million homes in Colorado for the next quarter century,” Schnacke said in the statement.Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to issue his comments about the future of the Roan Plateau this week. The Interior Department gave Ritter 120 days to review the BLM’s June management decision, which would allow drilling on federal land on the plateau top.Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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