Senators should stay out of the fray over unitization
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Two special-interest groups have distorted the unitization request for the Lake Ridge area. The Thompson Divide Coalition and the Community for Thompson Divide are attempting to circumvent the time-tested management processes of the Bureau of Land Management and are working to sabotage SG Interests’ legal rights to develop the oil and gas leases in the area.
Both groups want to force SG into a situation that would create more surface disturbance, more impacts, less orderly development, and in turn a substantially smaller return on the American people’s investment.
These groups have misrepresented the Lake Ridge unit as an area free from energy development. The truth is that some development has already occurred in this region and there are oil and gas wells located in and adjacent to the Lake Ridge unit.
Equally disturbing is both groups have worked to embroil U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet in their duplicitous campaign. The senators recently submitted a letter appealing to the BLM to deny the unitization request.
It is unfortunate our senators seemingly do not understand the BLM’s administrative process. Had the senators been successful, they would have created more regulatory uncertainty for energy operators and been a detriment to the land-planning process.
In response to the senators’ letter, the BLM stood its ground in pursuing the unitization request which, in Director Robert Abbey’s words, “is an administrative action categorically excluded from the NEPA analysis.”
The BLM made the correct decision to keep politics out of the scientific, administrative, internal process. Unitization is a vital tool for managing our federal lands. Unitization does not remove public involvement during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and even naysayers of unitization, such as former Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt, acknowledge the benefits as a means to “ensure responsible, orderly and systematic development.”
Of course, all affected parties and stakeholders need to be active in future NEPA analysis, but we also need to abide by the rules and processes currently in place.
To that end, Sens. Udall and Bennet need to refrain from future attempts to insert themselves in this and any other unitization request through the BLM.
Finally, I support the stated intentions of the Thompson Divide Coalition and the Community for Thompson Divide to have input in the way these federal lands are managed.
I encourage both groups and all concerned citizens to familiarize themselves with the NEPA process and to stay engaged as the Lake Ridge unit moves forward. There will be many opportunities for public comment before any development occurs, and I wholeheartedly support members of the community making their voices heard.
Ray Scott of Grand Junction represents District 54 in the Colorado House of Representatives.
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