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Thompson Divide requests on city council agenda

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – City Council will consider weighing in with the Bureau of Land Management on requests by two energy companies to suspend natural gas leases in the Thompson Divide area to keep them from expiring this year.

Included on council’s agenda for its 6 p.m. meeting tonight will be a discussion about formally commenting on the suspension requests by Houston-based SG Interests and Ursa Piceance LLC.

The companies have asked that their oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs be allowed to continue beyond their 10-year expiration date, while several drilling permit applications are being evaluated.



County commissioners in neighboring Pitkin County, where several of the lease holdings are located, have asked that the leases be allowed to expire.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees also recently reiterated its opposition to drilling in the Thompson Divide, an area that encompasses parts of Garfield, Pitkin, Gunnison, Delta and Mesa counties.



“I am prepared to make a motion that the mayor be authorized to sign some type of document that indicates the city’s support for the comments prepared by the Pitkin County Attorney’s office,” Glenwood Springs City Councilman Dave Sturges said.

“This is an issue that needs to be higher on our radar,” Sturges said of the prospect for natural gas drilling in the Thompson Divide.

SG Interests has indicated in some of its drilling permit applications with federal land managers that its preferred haul route in and out of the area would be via Four Mile Road into and through Glenwood Springs.

That is the crux of the issue for the residents of Glenwood Springs, Sturges said.

The city’s concerns regarding traffic impacts have already been stated to the BLM in the context of the drilling permit applications.

A similar stance may need to be taken related to the suspension requests, since that decision will be made first by area BLM officials, Sturges said.

“This is a very complicated area of public law, and I am impressed with the legal work that Pitkin County Assistant Attorney Chris Seldin and Peter Hart [attorney for the Wilderness Workshop] have done on this,” said Sturges.

“I would like to see the city be more active on this legal point early on in this process,” he said.

A March 13 letter from Seldin to Steven Bennett, the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office manager, urges the BLM to deny the suspension requests. The county bases its requests on several legal findings that it says support a decision to let the leases expire as scheduled.

Some of the leases are set to expire as soon as May, while others would expire this summer.

The Thompson Divide Coalition, which has been working to prevent or limit natural gas development in the area and has offered to buy out any active leases, is urging supporters of that effort to show up at tonight’s Glenwood council meeting.

“Glenwood Springs has been an ardent supporter of our efforts to protect the Thompson Divide,” the TDC said in a statement calling attention to tonight’s meeting. “We invite citizens to thank the City Council members and provide needed input to the process of protecting the Thompson Divide.”

Tonight’s City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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