Pitkin County commissioners unhappy with BLM oil/gas plan

Aug 18, 2015

Pitkin County is crafting a letter to the BLM, encouraging the agency to cancel undeveloped existing oil and gas leases on the Thompson Divide.
Credit EcoFlight

The Pitkin County Commissioners are unhappy with what they’ve seen so far in a BLM plan for existing oil and gas leases on the Thompson Divide. They’re crafting a letter to the agency. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Pitkin County gets an early look at the BLM’s preliminary draft Environmental Impact Statement because it’s a cooperating agency. A public version will be released in November. It’ll decide what to do with more than two dozen undeveloped oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide, southwest of Carbondale. Pitkin County wants the leases canceled.

At a meeting Tuesday, assistant county attorney Chris Seldin explained the draft includes a “proposed action.” He says it ignores public outcry over preserving the area.

"Our understanding from BLM is that they are identifying their - quote-unquote - proposed action in this current draft of the draft EIS, an alternative that would more or less ratify the leases as they were issued in 2003.”

He’s quick to point out such “proposed action” in the plan technically doesn’t express preference from the BLM for validating the leases. Still, it made the elected board uncomfortable. Commissioner Steve Child:

"The BLM is catering to the oil and gas industry and, by and large, ignoring the letter of intent of the NEPA rules, and taking into account public opinion and, in this case, the opinion of a federal agency from the federal government.”

In December, the county cheered a plan from the Forest Service that cancels future oil and gas leases in the Divide. The BLM’s plan deals with existing leases. A spokesman for the BLM tamped down concerns from the commissioners, saying it’s still early in the process and the agency is considering the 30,000 comments it already received. Most favored cancelling the leases.