Several to protest gas, oil leases

Archuleta County wants greater scrutiny of fracking

At least two nonprofit organizations and two county governments are protesting an environmental assessment that gives the go-ahead for a gas- and oil-lease sale of more than 12,000 acres in Southwest Colorado.

The Bureau of Land Management released a final environmental assessment in November that found the February 2013 lease sale would have no significant impact. But several entities dispute that finding, saying the BLM based its assessment on an outdated plan for managing the area’s resources and failed to fully evaluate all impacts that new drilling technologies could have on the area.

“There is no oil and gas development in that area at all,” said Dan Randolph in reference to 10,761 acres set to be leased near Hesperus. “We think, therefore, it does demand the BLM take a good, hard look at the impacts.”

Randolph is the executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, which will be protesting the environmental assessment’s findings.

The Bureau of Land Management officially based its environmental assessment on a Resource Management Plan created in 1985 and amended in 1991. That document, meant to guide land-use decisions, fails to assess current environmental conditions and the new potential for shale development, Randolph said.

But BLM officials say the environmental assessment takes into account and complies with several more current documents including a 2010 analysis of “reasonable and foreseeable development” in the area and a new draft Resource Management Plan that is expected to be finalized next spring.

Archuleta County, which finalized its protest letter Wednesday, criticized the BLM’s failure to adequately address hydraulic fracturing in the assessment process.

“The bottom line is that the technologies employed in the development of oil and gas resources have changed and the potential impacts of these technologies, particularly hydraulic fracturing, have not been considered in any past or current (Environmental Impact Statement) or resource management plan for the Tres Rios lease sale,” the letter said.

San Miguel County is in the process of drafting its own protest letter as well, said Dave Schneck, the county’s environmental health director

The deadline to file letters of protest is Monday.

ecowan@durangoherald.com