John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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February 12, 2013
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Carbondale may renew its opposition to Thompson Divide drilling

CARBONDALE - Town trustees in Carbondale are expected Tuesday to approve and send a letter to federal and state officials, stressing the town's long-standing opposition to natural gas development in the Thompson Divide area southwest of town.

"Leaving this small chunk of undeveloped, unique, and treasured national forest undrilled will help ensure long-term economic prosperity and healthy communities in western Colorado," declares the draft of letter to be considered.

"Protection will help us achieve an elusive balance that we've been trying to find for generations," the letter continues, "... a balance between the boom and the bust."

The letter is addressed to Steven Bennett, field office manager for the Bureau of Land Management's field office near Silt, and to Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Denver.

It lists a number of reasons why the Thompson Divide area should be placed off-limits to drillers, including the assertion that the area "contains two of the most sought after big game hunting units in the state."

The hunting units, #42 and #43, "generate more than 1,400 big game hunting licenses every year," the letter contends.

The 221,500-acre Thompson Divide area stretches from Sunlight Mountain Resort south to McClure Pass, and from the Crystal River west to Divide Creek, taking in eight watersheds and parts of Garfield, Pitkin, Mesa, Delta and Gunnison counties.

It has been the focus of intense controversy for nearly four years, after Houston-based SG Interests and other companies announced plans to begin drilling in Thompson Divide.

At Tuesday's meeting, the trustees also will discuss signing a second letter, originating with the Pitkin County commissioners and presented to officials in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The Pitkin County letter asks the BLM for a 30-day public comment period on any requests to "suspend," or extend the duration of oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide.

The letter asks that the public be permitted to comment on the requests for extension before the BLM either approves or denies any such requests. BLM spokesman David Boyd said on Monday that no such requests had been received by the agency.

"As you know, the fate of these federal leases in the Thompson Divide is a subject of intense community interest," the second letter states. "We strongly urge BLM to allow the public's voice to be heard before taking any action on these requests."

The trustees also will take a look at the International Green Commercial Building code, which the town may adopt, and discuss possible future uses of the old Gordon Cooper Library building, which the town will own once the library moves out.

Tuesday's meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Carbondale Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave., and the public is invited to attend and participate.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 12, 2013 06:34AM Published Feb 12, 2013 06:31AM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.