Udall, Salazars seek to have Roan leases yanked | AspenTimes.com

Udall, Salazars seek to have Roan leases yanked

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Sen. Ken Salazar and congressmen Mark Udall and John Salazar have asked federal officials to withdraw parcels on western Colorado’s Roan Plateau from an upcoming auction of oil and gas leases.

Leases on 55,186 acres of public land on the Roan Plateau are among those up for bid in the Aug. 14th auction by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Salazars and Udall sent a letter Wednesday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne asking that public land on the Roan be excluded from leasing so they can pursue a bill that would include protections favored by Gov. Bill Ritter and other Coloradans.

The Roan Plateau, about 180 miles west of Denver, is prized for its mineral riches as well as its wildlife habitat and pristine backcountry.

The three Democrats also said Colorado might not get any revenue if the BLM sells the leases before waste from shale oil research is cleaned up at Anvil Points on the plateau.

Mineral royalties and fees from energy development on federal land are usually split between the state and federal government. Revenue from federal leases on the Roan Plateau has flowed into a fund set up 1997 to finance the Anvil Points cleanup.

In March, the BLM rejected Ritter’s alternative plan for the Roan Plateau that recommended more of the federal land be off-limits to drilling.

Ritter also suggested leasing the land in phases, saying he believes that would increase what companies would pay. The BLM plan calls for the development to occur in stages, and Ritter has said companies are unlikely to pay a lot of money for leases they can’t develop for a while.

A coalition of 10 environmental groups has filed a lawsuit seeking to block sale of oil and gas leases on the Roan Plateau.

BLM spokesman Steven Hall said Thursday that the federal agency believes its plan provides strong safeguards because of the requirement that one operator oversee development in a unit. The goal is to reduce the number of roads, pipelines and other infrastructure to reduce the impacts.

The BLM also expects to certify the Anvil Points cleanup before the August auction, clearing the way for the state and federal governments to start getting the revenue from leases. Hall said the cleanup fund contains about $100 million and the cleanup costs are estimated at $20 to $30 million.

The BLM’s management plan for the Roan Plateau projects drilling 1,570 wells from 193 sites, or well pads, on the public land on the plateau over 20 years. That includes 210 wells from 13 pads on top, where the BLM calls for oil and gas drilling to be done in stages and clusters to limit disturbance to 1 percent of the federal land at any time.

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