Environmental Assessment for West Slope Oil and Gas Parcels Released – Public Input Opportunity Now Available
Colin McRann of the Telluride Daily Planet filed this report today on the public being given the opportunity to submit ideas or concerns for 12 potential oil and gas parcels covering a total of 12,175 surface acres in southwestern Colorado.
The parcels are located in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Miguel counties, and all contain federally owned minerals. On Friday, a preliminary environmental assessment and a finding of no significant impact were released for public review by the BLM. Comments will be accepted until Sept. 17, and a competitive lease sale is planned for February after final assessments are complete.
“Essentially this is a multi-step process,” said southwest Colorado BLM spokesperson Shannon Borders. “An individual or company can nominate the parcel for lease, and once they do that, we consider the parcels within one of our quarterly oil and gas sales. Once that’s finished, we determine if those parcels qualify. Then [if they qualify] they go and write an assessment of no significant impact.”
Though the parcels will go on sale in February, once sold, another environmental assessment process is started. A winning bidder has 10 years to start producing on the lease or they lose it. Once a winning bidder decides to submit a plan to drill, the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] requires additional assessments to specifically determine what a wide variety of impacts to the resource area will be.
The single lease in San Miguel County is simply known as parcel 6471, and it’s located on the border between San Miguel and Dolores counties, near the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area.
The McKenna Peak study area is described by the BLM as around 19,398 acres in size, located in San Miguel and Dolores counties. McKenna Peak is the most prominent feature, rising 1,000 feet above Disappointment Valley. The area is also home to a diverse variety of vegetation from baron deserts to shrub lands and Douglas fir forests.
Though the McKenna Peak area is listed as a wilderness study area, it has not been recommended for a wilderness designation by the BLM. (However, under the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, which is currently being reviewed in the Senate, 8,614 acres of the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area would be designated as wilderness.)
Borders said there is no history of oil and gas exploration in the study area or the parcel itself. Though the environmental assessment does describe the parcel as having big game hunting potential, it says the area is remote and difficult to access. No information is given about the actual resources available or who is interested in the parcel.
The other 11 parcels are all located west of Durango.
The BLM is accepting comments by mail at the Tres Rios Field Office, Attn: Lease Sale, 28211 Highway 184, Dolores, CO 81323, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to a BLM release, the state of Colorado receives 49 percent of the proceeds of each lease sale. In 2011, Colorado received more than $154 million from royalties, rentals and bonus bid payments for all federal minerals, including oil and gas statewide.
Tags: Archuleta County • Colorado Bureau of Land Management • Dolarres County • la plata county • McKenna Peak • Montezuma County • oil an gas development • public lands • San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act • San Miguel County • Western Slope