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Town urges denial of Thompson unitization

CARBONDALE, Colorado – The Carbondale Board of Trustees plans to go on record with federal land managers opposing an energy company’s request to unitize several gas leases in the Thompson Divide area west of town.

Trustees, at their regular Tuesday meeting, directed Town Manager Jay Harrington to draft a letter urging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to deny the pending request by Houston-based SG Interests.

The company is proposing to combine 18 individual gas leases into a single unit within a 32,000-acre section of the larger Thompson Divide area.



The so-called Lake Ridge Unit would cover an area stretching from just west of Redstone to the Oak Meadows subdivision area southwest of Glenwood Springs.

SG Interests’ existing leases in the area are set to expire in 2013. However, if unitization is granted, the leases can be developed over time as long as one producing well is established somewhere in the unit.



The Thompson Divide Coalition, a group of Carbondale-area ranchers, environmentalists and backcountry recreationists, has been working to prevent or at least limit natural gas development in the area. The group recently offered $2.5 million to buy several undeveloped leases.

The coalition’s objections to SG Interests’ unitization request prompted the BLM to take public comment on what is normally a fairly routine approval process.

Last month, the Glenwood Springs City Council voted 4-3 to send a letter to the BLM urging denial of the request.

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said she would like to see unanimous support among Carbondale trustees, noting that the board was previously in full support of the Thompson Divide Coalition’s efforts.

“We need to send a strongly worded letter that supports what this community values,” Trustee Elizabeth Murphy agreed.

Bernot said the letter should include a reference to Carbondale’s history as a coal-mining town.

“Yes, the coal mines provided jobs and were the main driver of the economy for a long time,” she said. “But there’s a cost to energy extraction that’s hard to quantify, and there were a lot of unintended consequences.”

Trustee John Hoffmann noted that many of the existing leases in the area are in roadless areas.

“It’s very frustrating to see that blatant scoffing of the roadless rule,” Hoffmann said of federal rules limiting development of public lands that would require building of new roads.

“To not retain this tiny little bit of pristine roadless area is just intolerable,” he said.

The Carbondale board, at Hoffmann’s suggestion, also agreed to send a formal letter to the BLM commenting on the agency’s ongoing environmental review of its oil shale and tar sands leasing program.

Hoffmann wanted the board to support the BLM’s current preferred alternative reducing the amount of acreage available for leasing in northwest Colorado, as well as parts of Wyoming and Utah.

However, the board was more comfortable issuing a general statement urging the BLM to see the review process through to completion.

Leaders in several affected counties in the lease area, including the Garfield County commissioners, recently signed a joint resolution calling on the BLM to abandon the latest review and go back to the 2008 plan approved by the Bush administration.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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