Decision on Thompson Divide leases coming today | AspenTimes.com

Decision on Thompson Divide leases coming today

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

An announcement of the Bureau of Land Management's final decision related to oil and gas leases on the White River National Forest, including 25 leases expected to be canceled in the Thompson Divide area, will come at the state Capitol in Denver today.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze are scheduled to be joined by Gov. John Hickenlooper at a news conference in the west foyer of the Capitol building at 11 a.m., the BLM said in a statement Wednesday.

Earlier this year, the BLM released a final environmental impact assessment analyzing 65 oil and gas leases on the White River National Forest, including several long-disputed leases in the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale.

The leases had been issued between 1995 and 2012 under a 1993 Forest Service leasing plan. The BLM, which manages oil and gas resources beneath forest lands, never adopted that plan or conducted its own analysis, resulting in the retroactive review.

Most of the 25 undeveloped leases in Thompson Divide, held by energy companies SG Interests and Ursa Resources, had been scheduled to expire in recent years but were allowed to continue while the new analysis was done.

Groups such as the Thompson Divide Coalition and local governments, including Pitkin County, the city of Glenwood Springs and the town of Carbondale, have been lobbying to have the leases canceled, citing the impacts drilling in the pristine area and the potential for large oil and gas trucks rolling through Glenwood Springs from Four Mile Road.

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The BLM plan calls for canceling the Divide leases but allowing 40 other leases located farther west on the White River National Forest to continue.

Thirteen of those leases would have to comply with new stipulations contained in a 2015 amended White River National Forest oil and gas leasing plan, protecting inventoried roadless areas and limiting surface facilities. The other 27 leases would be allowed to be developed under the less-restrictive 1993 rules.

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