The Roan Plateau – round 2
A couple of years ago the local Bureau of Land Management office requested comments on a preliminary draft of the management plan for the Roan Plateau planning area, which it was preparing. All but one of the several management alternatives being considered included varying levels of gas-well drilling on top of the Plateau. About 11,000 comments were received, 95 percent of which favored the no-drilling alternative. In addition, the board of commissioners of Garfield County and the city councils and town boards of all of the incorporated communities in Garfield County passed resolutions supporting the no-drilling alternative.In spite of this strong showing of local opposition to drilling of the Roan Plateau, the long arm of “big brother” government reached out from Washington, and in effect ordered the BLM to delete the no-drilling alternative from the management plan. So much for the voice of the people in decisions affecting them.The current draft of the management plan, released in November, includes in place of the no-drill alternative, an alternative suggested by Garfield County officials, which defers drilling on the top of the Roan Plateau until 80 percent of the wells that are currently permitted in the rest of the Roan Plateau planning area have been drilled. It is estimated that the 80 percent threshold could be reached in anywhere from six to 16 years. This alternative, identified as Alternative 3, and has been designated as the preferred alternative by the BLM.The preferred alternative allows the future drilling of 51 wells from 39 well pads on top of the Roan Plateau. Let’s look at the significance of these 51 wells in the gas production in western Garfield County and adjoining Rio Blanco County, and in the entire United States.It is estimated that the 7 million-acre Piceance Basin in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties may hold 1 percent of the United States’ gas reserves. The prime environmental area on the top of the Roan Plateau comprises only about 35,000 acres, which is only 0.5 percent of the Piceance Basin. The amount of gas this 35,000 acres is likely to produce would supply the needs of the United States for less than an hour.The number of wells which may ultimately be drilled in the Piceance Basin is projected to reach 10,000. Another 51 wells on top of the Roan Plateau would add only 0.5 percent to the total yield.In view of the insignificance of the amount of gas which could be obtained by drilling the top of the Roan Plateau in the overall picture, one has to question why there is such an obsession with drilling in this area, particularly when local public opinion has so overwhelmingly spoken out for its preservation. I suspect that since the motivation is not need, it is more likely greed – the desire to wring the last possible dollars out of the Roan Plateau.You, the public, have one more chance to be heard. The BLM is accepting comments on the Draft Management Plan until March 4. Please submit your comments to: Roan Plateau Comments, attn: Greg Goodenow, BLM Glenwood Springs Field Office, 50629 Highway 6 & 24, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601; or online at http://www.roanplateau.ene.com. Support the “community alternative,” which will protect the top of the Roan Plateau from drilling for the 20-year life of the management plan.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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