Environmental group critical of energy companies’ role in study | SummitDaily.com

Environmental group critical of energy companies’ role in study

DENVER – An environmental group is criticizing an arrangement that allows seven energy companies to fund part of a study assessing how much drilling should be allowed on 1.5 million acres in northwestern Colorado.Officials say it allows industry too much influence over the Bureau of Land Management, which handles land use issues for much of the West.”This gives the industry excessive influence over the BLM office,” said Nada Culver of the Wilderness Society. “It’s not even behind the scenes.”The current plan for BLM-administered lands near Meeker would allow for 1,100 wells. Oil and gas companies would like to drill as many as 15,000 wells over the 15- to 20-year life of the plan.The two-year study, estimated to cost $4 million to $6 million, will be largely paid for by a consortium of oil and gas companies: EnCana Oil and Gas, Exxon Mobil Corp., Williams Production RMT Co., XTO Energy Inc., Pioneer Natural Resources USA Inc., Riata Energy Inc. and Chevron USA Inc.The arrangement was first reported by The Denver Post.Officials in the BLM’s White River Field Office in Meeker say safeguards in place will make sure the study doesn’t take an industry perspective.”While industry is paying for it, they don’t get any special treatment,” said Kent Walter, the office’s manager. He said industry will be paying the lion’s share of the study cost, though exact numbers have not been worked out.Peter Loeffler, an EnCana geologist, said the work – by a contractor to be chosen by the companies – will be guided by federal law.”Once the contract is let, industry really steps back then and does not have involvement in the process,” Loeffler said.The BLM and the energy companies agreed on the names of four contractors to seek out for the study. The companies choose the contractor, then control returns to the BLM, agency project manager Jane Peterson said.Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., praised the “unique partnership” at an October hearing in Washington and called it a “shining example of out-of-the-box thinking.”—Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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