Proposal aims to develop Roan-area leases

Alex Zorn
Citizen Telegram

The Bureau of Land Management seeks comments on plans by Terra Rocky Mountain LLC to develop gas leases west of Rifle, some of which were part of a landmark 2015 Roan Plateau lease settlement.

BLM is taking public comment until Feb. 8 on the plan by Terra Rocky Mountain to directional drill up to 63 new oil and gas wells from four new well pads just north of Interstate 70 at Rulison over the next two years, according to a news release issued Tuesday by BLM’s Northwest Colorado District.

In 2015, BLM canceled 17 of the 19 natural gas leases on top of the Roan Plateau west of Rifle as part of a settlement negotiated between conservation groups and oil and gas leaseholders. About a dozen other leases at the base of the Roan that had been tied up in the six-year-long legal challenge were allowed to proceed under the deal.

Some of the leases Terra Rocky Mountain currently proposes to develop as part of the Balzac Gulch Phase II Master Development Plan are among those included in that larger settlement. They are located below the rim and not on top of the Roan Plateau, BLM spokesman David Boyd said.

The agreement included a refund of about $47.6 million in lease payments and bonuses to Bill Barrett Corp., which held the leases on top of the Roan.

Michael Freeman with Earth Justice, a nonprofit environmental law firm that worked on the 2015 settlement, said the top of the plateau is one of the most biologically rich areas in all of Colorado. Its biodiversity is on par with many national parks and monuments, which was one of the main reasons for the initial lawsuit, he said.

Freeman said Tuesday that the firm is taking a hard look at the Balzac Gulch proposal and is currently still reviewing to ensure terms of the settlement are being met.

The Terra Rocky Mountain proposal seeks to develop 63 additional federal directional wells on four well pads contained in the same boundaries as the earlier Phase I plans. The first phase included 66 federal wells to be drilled from three well pads.

If Phase II is approved, the combined total wells would reach 129 wells.

The project area consists of 2,648 acres of BLM-administered public land and 269 acres of private land, for a total of 2,917 acres.

The additional 63 wells could produce nearly 120 billion cubic feet of natural gas over the estimated 40-year project life, according to the BLM’s press release.

In addition to the new wells and well pads, the BLM’s proposed action includes two new ancillary pads to support project staging and well completions, plus:

• Continued use of two existing pads for well completions support;

• A new tank farm on private land near the valley floor;

• Storage of drill cuttings on an existing pad;

• New road construction totaling 2.3 miles;

• Use of temporary surface water lines; and,

• Installation of 5.3 miles of buried natural gas, liquid condensate (oil), and/or water pipelines.

Apart from the wells included in the Balzac Gulch Master Development Plan, Terra currently operates 79 directional wells on 11 wells pads in the area, according to the BLM.

Access routes to the project area exit from I-70 and continue generally northward across county roads and private oil and gas roads.

Anyone wishing to provide any comments, express concerns or raise issues regarding the proposed development plan should send them in by Feb. 8. Written comments and questions should be directed to the Colorado River Valley Field Office at 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652, or submitted electronically to

Copies of the proposed action are available for review at the BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office and online at: