Weighing the impacts of drilling
When we heard this week that two congressmen from Colorado are trying to delay any new leases for new natural gas wells on and around the Roan Plateau in western Garfield County, we took notice.The point of John Salazar and Mark Udall’s proposed yearlong moratorium on new leases is to study a new federal management plan of the area that would allow up to 1,570 new natural gas wells on and around the Roan Plateau – just north of Rifle – over the next 20 years.This plan may have been seven years in the making, but frankly, a George W. Bush Bureau of Land Management put it together, and our president’s lousy environmental record is well-known and well-documented. We accept that some energy development on the Roan is inevitable and even warranted, but we simply don’t trust that this is a sane, moderate, environmentally conscious plan.The timing of the proposed moratorium is also key. The new Democratic-controlled Congress is the natural place to go in order to counter the Bush administration. The BLM has already rejected Gov. Bill Ritter’s request for more time to review the leasing plan, so Salazar and Udall’s effort to freeze Interior Department funds from use for this purpose is a wise move.Congress is already at work on reforms to the Energy Act of 2005 – the Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007, which the House Natural Resources Committee passed on Wednesday. This bill includes several significant measures to establish a more balanced and sustainable energy policy, and address the impacts of climate change.Bill Owens and his staff helped shape the Roan plan when he was Colorado’s governor, but there’s a new crew in Denver today that appears more sensitive to the long-term impacts of drilling on the Roan Plateau. Gov. Bill Ritter says he’s actively working with the congressional duo to delay new leases.The base and sides of the majestic Roan Plateau are already pocked with drilling rigs and new wells, as any driver on Interstate 70 can see. Aggressive development on the 73,602 federally controlled acres on the top and sides of this plateau will only further damage the unique attributes of the place. The Roan is home to some of the state’s largest deer and elk herds, mountain lions, bears, peregrine falcons, rare plants and a genetically distinct strain of cutthroat trout.Should they take more time to weigh the impacts of increased drilling on the Roan Plateau, and even consider alternatives? Absolutely.
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