Single lease sale on Roan provides best control
Coloradans are passionate about the Roan Plateau – its rugged beauty, spectacular scenery, diverse wildlife and world-class energy deposits. That’s why federal and state proposals for developing the plateau’s 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 16 billion barrels of oil emphasize protecting the Roan’s woodlands, meadows, streams and wildlife. All plans call for a careful, gradual and environmentally responsible approach to tapping the plateau’s oil and gas reserves, which could generate more than $1 billion in revenues that will be shared between the state and the federal government. The major differences between the approaches are the types and terms of oil and gas leasing to accomplish the objectives. The Interior Department has worked for the past seven years with local officials, private citizens, state agencies, industry and environmental groups to develop one of the most innovative and protective approaches in Colorado – in the entire West, for that matter.Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has chosen a unique, phased, ridge-by-ridge, single-operator approach for the 73,602-acre planning area because this offers the greatest environmental protection for the Roan’s many natural resources. The plan designates more than half – 38,470 acres – of that area off-limits to ground disturbance. For the 35,000-acre top of the plateau, the phased development approach mandates that oil and gas drilling will be confined to one ridgetop at a time and along existing roads to protect streams, riparian areas and other sensitive lands on the mesa. These areas for development are virtually identical to those identified in alternative proposals.Under the BLM plan, only 1 percent of the surface – about 350 acres – can be disturbed for development at any one time. Wells will be clustered on multi-well pads at least one-half mile apart and use the latest technologies in directional drilling. All of the parcels on top of the plateau will be leased at one time in a single sale, requiring all lessees to join an undivided federal unit. This gives BLM tight control because only one operator will conduct work on the ground on behalf of all lease holders, requiring lessees to consolidate infrastructure, such as roads, power lines and pipelines. While some believe phased leasing – issuing dozens of individual leases over decades – could provide more economic benefit, this approach does not afford the degree of environmental control and protection we can achieve through a single lease sale with phased development in a federal unit of one operator.The BLM plan keeps the environmental footprint to an absolute minimum. Under alternative proposals allowing for multiple units and operators, lease holders would press to develop their own infrastructure, resulting in a much broader footprint and impact. Phased leasing would make a single federal unit impossible. The BLM approach ensures an organized, slow-paced development over two decades, allowing recovery of 90 percent of one of the largest contiguous blocks of federal gas resources in the Rocky Mountains. This vital resource can provide secure and reliable supplies of cleaner-burning, affordable energy for America’s families and businesses as well as significant economic benefits for Coloradans and the nation.Revenue from the Roan’s oil and natural gas lease sales and royalties could generate as much as $1.13 billion over the next 20 years. The state of Colorado will receive half of those revenues – an estimated half billion dollars. In these difficult times of rapidly rising energy costs, a balanced and realistic national energy policy requires not only enhanced energy conservation and efficiency to reduce demand and expanded alternative and renewable energy production to bolster supply, but also continued development of domestic oil and natural gas resources. Careful development of the Roan helps to meet the nation’s vital energy requirements while placing more control over energy supply and prices in the hands of America. The Congress transferred the planning area lands to Interior in 1997 with explicit direction to develop its oil and gas resources as soon as “practicable.” The BLM has been developing its approach with extensive public participation for more than seven years. This plan provides a carefully phased, environmentally sensitive approach to protecting the Roan’s wildlife, water, air and recreational resources.In accordance with the Congress’ mandate, I’ve directed the BLM to offer oil and gas lease rights to the Roan Plateau during the regularly scheduled summer lease sale on Aug. 14, 2008. This sale will include the “phased development area,” or federal unit, on top of the plateau. As we move forward, we will continue to work closely with the state of Colorado in implementing this plan, including conducting additional environmental analyses.C. Stephen Allred is the assistant secretary for land and minerals management in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
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