Carbondale eyes ‘no new leasing’ alternative

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – The Carbondale Board of Trustees Tuesday may urge federal land managers to adopt a “no new leasing” policy toward gas development on the White River National Forest.

The trustees are preparing comments to the U.S. Forest Service concerning the ongoing White River Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) process.

When completed, the DEIS will set the rules for energy development in the forest for the next 20 years.

But in the draft remarks that Carbondale’s trustees will be reviewing, a halt to leasing is advised.

“The no new leasing alternative, Alternative B, is sensible from economic, social, and environmental perspectives,” states the letter containing the town’s draft comments, which would be sent to the agency’s office in Sacramento, Calif., if approved by the trustees.

The comments, and the DEIS, refer to the entire White River National Forest, which encompasses more than 2.3 million acres of land in the western half of Colorado.

“Currently, there are 143 leases on the WRNF comprising approximately 130,000 acres,” the town’s draft letter states.

“This is a huge amount of acreage dedicated to one use,” the letter adds, in a reference to the motto of the national forest, “Land of Many Uses.”

And, the draft letter continues, only 53 of the existing leases are “held by production,” meaning they are either being actively drilled or are part of a drilling unit containing multiple leases.

The letter maintains that gas drilling brings “traffic, industrialization, air pollution, water pollution and locked gates on public lands.”

Referring to proposed drilling in the Thompson Divide region southwest of Carbondale, the draft letter maintains that gas development “will be in conflict with our tourism and recreation based economy.”

Aside from the comments on the DEIS, the trustees will:

• Hear an update on the Garfield Clean Energy Fall Energy Program.

• Discuss panhandling by homeless individuals and other issues concerning the intersection of Highway 82 and 133.

• Consider a nine-month moratorium on reviewing or approving new medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

• Talk about the proposed 2013 municipal budget.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave.