BLM authorizes up to 1,570 new gas wells on Roan Plateau |

BLM authorizes up to 1,570 new gas wells on Roan Plateau

AP fiel photo

DENVER – Federal land managers on Friday authorized up to 1,570 new natural gas wells over the next 20 years on the Roan Plateau, a western Colorado landmark prized both for its energy reserves and its wildland qualities.The Bureau of Land Management decision covers 73,602 acres – federal land on the top and sides of the plateau. Some wells have already been drilled on private land.

Some Coloradans, including two congressmen, have called for a moratorium on drilling on the plateau over concerns about damage to the environment and to hunting and other activities. Drilling on the top of the Roan has been hotly debated because of the abundant wildlife and several pockets of pristine backcountry there.A second decision will be issued later covering areas considered to have critical environmental concerns, about 30 percent of the federal land. BLM officials said that decision was delayed because the areas weren’t adequately described.Friday’s decision follows years of review, public hearings and meetings among area elected officials on energy development on the plateau, near the town of Rifle about 180 miles west of Denver.

Colorado Congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall last month asked Congress to delay funds for the BLM to oversee Roan Plateau development for a year and to prevent new projects in the meantime.The plateau, which straddles two Colorado counties, generates an estimated $5 million a year for the local economy from hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.It could also provide enough natural gas for 4 million homes for the next 20 years, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association trade group.

After a series of meetings with state and local agencies and governments, the BLM revised the management plan last year to include suggestions from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to stage and cluster development so that no more than 1 percent of the 34,758 acres on top of the plateau would be disturbed at any one time.The BLM has projected 13 well pads and 210 wells on top. Multiple wells can be drilled from one pad. Wells would be clustered on pads spaced a half-mile apart, with one pad per 160 acres. One operator would conduct all the groundwork for lease holders.On the Net: Colorado Bureau of Land Management, Roan Plateau at

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