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Groups want update on Road drilling estimates

Saturday, June 04, 2005


The Daily Sentinel

RIFLE — Conservationists have sent a “friendly reminder” to the Bureau of Land Management about their request to update natural-gas development estimates in the Roan Plateau management plan.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the 74,884 public comments on the draft plan may be released next week, a BLM official said.

The draft plan, released in November, included “flawed drilling projections” that should be replaced with “accurate, updated and forward-looking information” to provide a clear picture of likely energy development in the 73,602-acre Roan Plateau planning area between Rifle and Parachute, the Colorado Environmental Coalition said in a Thursday letter to Glenwood Springs Field Office Manager Jamie Connell.

Other groups are The Wilderness Society, Colorado Mountain Club, Sierra Club, Center for Native Ecosystems and Wilderness Workshop.

Coalition West Slope Field Director Pete Kolbenschlag said the intent was to make sure the BLM knew they expect a response to the original request submitted with their public comments on April 11.

“For the BLM to not consider the true realities of development is really problematic,” he said. “We want them to show us the numbers, back it up.”

The federal Data Quality Act requires agencies like the BLM to correct flawed information and provide a written explanation of the use of the data within 60 days. Kolbenschlag said that means the BLM has to respond by June 10.

As part of the draft plan, the BLM referenced what is known as a Reasonable Foreseeable Development analysis to estimate likely energy development over the 20-year life of the plan. That analysis was based on 2001 data that predicted Williams Production, the largest operator in the planning area, planned to drill between 50 and 100 wells annually, the groups said.

By the time the draft plan was released in November, Williams had said it planned to drill 300 wells this year. Parachute District Manager Steve Soychak on Thursday said those numbers may reach 450 wells in 2006 and up to 490 in 2007.

The conservation groups also noted the BLM relied on 2001 drilling rig counts to help set upper limits on the amount and rate of gas development.

However, the availability of drilling rigs had doubled since last year, they noted. That further calls into question the accuracy of any conclusions “so clearly flawed,” Kolbenschlag said.

Associate Field Office Manager Steve Bennett said the BLM was close to completing its analysis of the comments received on the draft plan.

“The vast majority of those were form letters,” he said. “We hope to be able to share those comments and our analysis with the public and the cooperatingagencies within the next week.”

Those agencies are the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, the city of Rifle and town of Parachute.

A final plan and record of decision by state BLM Director Ron Wenker is still scheduled for late this fall, Bennett said.

“That can certainly change, though,” he said. “It depends on how many meetings people want to have” to review the comments and help develop the final plan.

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