Carbondale group asking Garfield County to help stop possible drilling | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale group asking Garfield County to help stop possible drilling

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – A Carbondale-based group is asking Garfield County to support its bid to protect a remote section of the county from energy development.

The Thompson Divide Coalition will meet with the board of county commissioners on July 19 to discuss a bill that the coalition plans to present to U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo. 3rd.

The proposed legislation has the working title, “Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act of 2010.”

The bill has a two-fold purpose.

First, it seeks to withdraw federal lands within the 221,500-acre area west of Carbondale from new mineral leasing.

Second, the group hopes to set up a process to buy, exchange or “retire” about 81 existing leases in the area, or to convince the mineral owners to relinquish them.

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Different parts of the overall area are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and by the U.S. Forest Service.

The coalition has provided a draft letter to Salazar, with spaces for the signatures of commissioners Tresi Houpt, John Martin and Mike Samson.

“As you know,” the letter reads, “we support the efforts of the Thompson Divide Coalition,” and calls on Salazar to introduce the bill during the current session.

‘We look forward to working with you ad your staff to ensure that the Thompson Divide gets the permanent protection it deserves,” the letter concludes.

Supporters of the coalition goals have argued that there is not a lot of gas to be had in the Thompson Divide area, which is at the eastern edge of the mineral-rich Piceance Basin oil and gas field.

Aside from such practicalities, the group has maintained that the open space values of the region, along with the wildlife habitat and the scenic vistas, are worthy of being preserved in and of themselves.

Consideration of the coalition request is scheduled for the late-morning portion of the county commissioners’ meeting, which starts at around 10:15 a.m. in their meeting room, 108 Eighth St., Glenwood Springs.

jcolson@postindependent.com

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