Bullying a good organization
Greg Schnacke of the industry-front group “Americans for American Energy” claims in a recent Aspen Times article (“Skico workers taking on Big Oil,” Jan. 16) that the thousands of Coloradoans, dozens of elected officials, area town councils, and the Environment Foundation “don’t know what they are talking about” when it comes to wanting to protect the Roan Plateau.
Since he is an oil and gas attorney one might expect different from Mr. Schnacke, until reading his assertions which are consistently questionable and generally inflammatory. For instance, after his usual insults to those who disagree with his single-minded agenda, he notes in the article that under the BLM’s plan to lease the Roan’s remaining public lands for gas extraction “Surface disturbance will be limited to a few hundred acres among the 80 square miles.”
This statement is utterly false. Almost half the planning area is private land owned by the oil and gas industry, where drilling is already happening at a breakneck speed, and where the BLM exerts no direct control. Although the total public lands in the planning area are about 80 square miles, many are already leased under a 1999 plan or from even earlier, where the BLM’s recent decisions don’t apply. On these lands (private and public) the number of wells has more than doubled to over 2,000 in just three years, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group. Twenty years ago, there were less than 100 wells in the planning area.
The provisions that Schnacke refers to are only applicable to the public lands atop the Roan. And although active development for the public lands on top of the Plateau is limited to 350 acres at a time, as soon as the pad has been constructed and drilled, and the operator lets a little grass grow, that land no longer counts against this limit. Nowhere does the BLM plan actually limit total disturbance over time to only a few hundred acres. Under the BLM plan, dozens ” and eventually hundreds ” of pads would be active at a time, across the top of the Plateau. In the words of the BLM’s David Boyd: “The plan … doesn’t limit the number of wells and the number of well pads.”
Judging from recent history (which includes his special interest lobby getting caught putting words in the Governor of Wyoming’s and a Utah State Legislator’s mouths, along with picking a fight with every mayor between Parachute and Aspen) one should not expect Mr. Schnacke to add much value to the discussion about how we take care of Western Colorado in the face of its unprecedented industrialization. The Environment Foundation should be commended for its support for protecting these popular public lands, and need not be intimidated by crude and purposefully inaccurate bullies.
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