Salazar calls for public comment on Roan plan
U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar on Monday said the public should have an opportunity to comment on the final plan for management of the Roan Plateau near Rifle.In a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Salazar, D-Colo., said the public never had a chance to weigh in on a natural gas drilling proposal expected to be included in the plan.The Bureau of Land Management, part of the federal Department of the Interior, is hoping to release the final Resource Management Plan Amendment by late August.Salazar suggests delaying the release by 60 days to allow for public input on the final plan before its adoption.”Certainly, the natural gas resources below the plateau are not going to disappear if the selection of an RMPA is delayed by 60 days to permit proper public comment and review,” he wrote.Public interest in the planning process has centered largely on energy development. Salazar has sided with those who want the BLM to protect the top of the plateau by keeping it off limits to drilling, and who say much of the natural gas resource eventually could be tapped by directional drilling from the sides or base of the plateau.The BLM’s preferred draft plan called for some drilling on the plateau top. During meetings with several cooperating agencies, the BLM became interested in a state Department of Natural Resources proposal to reduce impacts from drilling on top. Although a final plan has yet to be decided on, it appears it may include components of that proposal.The state proposal calls for staged drilling under which one portion of the plateau top at a time would be developed and reclaimed before work moved on to the next portion. It also suggests having one operator develop the resource on top for all lease holders, to minimize duplication of pipelines, roads, compressor stations and other development.Salazar spokesman Cody Wertz said what appears to be shaping up as the final BLM plan may be a good one, but it will be different from any of the alternatives reviewed in the draft plan.”It’s a new preferred alternative so therefore BLM is obligated to provide some kind of public review or comment period,” he said.David Boyd, a BLM spokesman in Glenwood Springs, said the final plan doesn’t have to be one of the draft alternatives as long as its impacts are within the range of those analyzed in the draft.He said the more than 74,000 comments about the draft plan haven’t been ignored.”In this case the plan was refined in large part because of the public comments,” he said.Concerns about issues such as protecting wildlife, watersheds and viewsheds all are being answered in the final plan, Boyd said. All comments in response to the draft plan will be addressed, he said.He added that the refined approach the BLM is considering is the result of several meetings with cooperating agencies, all of which were open to the public.Although the BLM doesn’t plan to take comment on its final plan, a 30-day protest period will follow its unveiling. Also, Gov. Bill Owens will have 60 days to review the plan to make sure it is consistent with state law.Salazar and other members of Congress were briefed in January about the direction the final plan may take. But he, like the public, has yet to see its specific details, and Wertz said he doesn’t have an opinion on it yet.”The senator needs that time to be able to review it as well,” Wertz said.
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