Top stories of 2007: Debate about Roan Plateau drilling continues
RIFLE – A Rifle-area natural landmark made state and national headlines last year over debate about whether to allow natural gas drilling there.
The Roan Plateau was only part of the story when it comes to another big year for energy development in Garfield County.In June, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided to allow drilling on top of the Roan, which conservationists, sportsmen groups and local communities want protected because of its scenery, habitat and other values.Pressured by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., the Interior Department gave Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter 120 days to prepare comments about the Roan plan. Last month, Ritter called for greater restrictions on drilling on the plateau, but stopped short of asking for an outright drilling ban on top.
Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and John Salazar, D-Manassa, managed to get the House energy bill amended to put a moratorium on gas leasing on the Roan. But Ken Salazar, John’s brother, was unable to garner Senate support for the proposal and it was dropped from the final energy bill.The debate over the Roan came during a year in which Garfield County continued to lead the state in drilling activity. Also last year, the state Legislature passed reforms that include reducing industry-related representation on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates that industry. The Legislature also changed the COGCC’s mission to put as much of an emphasis on protection of wildlife, public health and the environment as on oil and gas development.
Following those reforms, Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt was appointed as a COGCC member.Last year also saw a continuing renewal in interest in oil shale development. The BLM released a draft environmental impact statement on oil shale development in the region last month. Earlier last year, however, Shell withdrew a state mining permit application associated with its ongoing efforts to prove the commercial viability of heating shale underground and pumping oil to the surface. But it is continuing to test its methods in Rio Blanco County.
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