Feds approve drilling in HD Mountains | AspenTimes.com

Feds approve drilling in HD Mountains

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DURANGO, Colo. ” Over the objections of environmentalists and local residents, the federal government has formalized its decision to allow up to 124 new natural gas well pads in southwestern Colorado, including the HD Mountains.

Environmental opponents say the HD Mountain area is the last area of the San Juan Basin that hasn’t been opened to natural gas development. Residents say they fear the drilling would create dangerous conditions.

“At the end of several years of analysis, I have found that, with careful measures, development can go forward so that we allow companies to enjoy their lease rights, while minimizing impacts to the environment and risk to health and prosperity,” said Mark Stiles, San Juan Public Lands Forest Supervisor/Area manager.

A message left after business hours at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association was not immediately returned.

The decision finalizes plans by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for energy development over about 125,000 acres in La Plata and Archuleta counties.

The wells would be coal bed methane wells. Gas is extracted from coal seams by pumping groundwater into them to relieve pressure trapping the gas.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., said the BLM had reached a reasonable decision, but he was disappointed that it allows for more drilling in the roadless areas.

“I am hopeful that the BLM will continue to work as much as possible with the surrounding community on their legitimate concerns,” Salazar said in a statement. “I encourage more review of directional drilling options that would minimize the damage to wildlife and watersheds in this area and help preserve the natural beauty of the HD Mountains.”

Area residents and environmentalists fear the development will pollute the air and groundwater. They’ve also criticized the plan because the HD Mountains have tens of thousands of acres of roadless areas and old-growth pine trees up to 300 years old.

Critics also note that drilling would be allowed along the outcrop of the Fruitland coal formation, where the coal seam is close to the surface.

Drilling near another outcrop in the area caused problems in the past, including methane seeping into homes and evacuation of an entire subdivision.

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