BLM proposes Colorado, feds cooperate on energy development | AspenTimes.com

BLM proposes Colorado, feds cooperate on energy development

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” State and federal officials should work together on a coordinated plan to develop Colorado’s rich energy resources, a federal land manager says.

“We need a more statewide, strategic approach to energy,” Sally Wisely, Colorado director for the Bureau of Land Management, told The Daily Sentinel for a story published Thursday.

Wisely said she has proposed the idea to Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Department officials confirmed the overture.

Neither the department nor Gov. Bill Ritter’s spokesman immediately returned calls from The Associated Press Thursday.

Propelled by an oil and gas boom in western Colorado, energy development has boosted the state’s economy but also fueled disputes over environmental protection, property rights, public services and shared revenue.

State-federal cooperation on energy would be a change from the sometimes-strained relationship between Ritter and federal agencies.

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Ritter’s administration has been at odds with the BLM over plans to drill gas wells on western Colorado’s Roan Plateau and in the Vermillion Basin of northwest Colorado.

The state asked for, and received, more time to study the BLM’s plans for the Roan Plateau, an area rich in both natural gas and wildlife habitat. The agency is developing a resource-management plan for the scenic Vermillion Basin, where the Ritter administration opposes drilling.

Wisely declined to discuss the Roan Plateau plan. She said she could not predict what might happen if the BLM decides to allow drilling in the Vermillion Basin over state objections.

Wisely said a coordinated approach to energy development would benefit both the state and federal government because of strong demand for natural gas from the Mountain West.

Wisely said most people associate energy development in Colorado with the BLM, even though only 13 percent of the oil and gas wells statewide were drilled under BLM permits. The other 87 percent were drilled under permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

In western Colorado, 24 percent of well applications are made to the BLM and 76 percent to the state.

Wisely said the idea of a state-federal approach to energy development is new, and no other state has taken it up.

The BLM manages more than 13,000 square miles of federal land in Colorado, or nearly 5 percent of the total. The land is used for recreation, mining, wildlife, wilderness, oil and gas drilling and ranching.

The agency also manages the federal government’s underground mineral rights on more than 45,000 square miles in Colorado.

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