Diane R. Miller: Proposed oil, gas leases concerning
The Bureau of Land Management is currently evaluating 17,085 acres in Routt County for oil and gas leasing in 2017. The majority of proposed leases are situated in areas where there has been little or no drilling in recent history.
They include areas of North Routt and a large section of South Routt that lies just west of Oak Creek and Phippsburg. One need only look at the map of these proposed sale parcels to realize that oil and gas development is no longer something Routt County residents can ignore.
The startling breadth of this proposed lease sale poses considerable threat to the things we cherish most about our rural life. Just last week OPEC announced that production will be cut, thus oil prices will soon rise and these leased parcels will have the potential to become drilling sites.
When that happens, the quality of our air and water will be threatened by emissions and spills. Light pollution from drill pads will make rural residents feel as if they are living in suburbia.
Pristine views of national forest, open ranchland and mountain ranges will be marred by oil rigs, tanks, heavy equipment, well pads, access roads and gas flares. If this sounds like something that cannot happen here, visit Jackson or Rio Blanco counties for a glimpse of what the future could hold.
Sale of these leases could also have significant impact on property values as 91 percent of the acreage up for lease in Routt County is in split estate, meaning the BLM owns and controls the mineral estate underground, regardless of who owns the surface estate.
In these circumstances, private property owners have little to gain and much to lose as most profits and royalties associated with split estate sites belong to the oil and gas operator and the government. Even if these leases are not developed, they can become an impediment to the future sale of property as prospective buyers will be apprehensive about the potential for oil and gas development.
Despite the assertion by the BLM that most of these parcels will never be developed, lease sales are conducted expressly for the purpose of facilitating oil and gas development.
The time for residents of Routt County to act is now, while the BLM can still withdraw parcels from consideration and/or impose stricter technical and environmental stipulations on its lease sales.
If you are concerned about the effects oil and gas development may have on Routt County, I urge you to review and comment on the BLM’s Environmental Assessment for this lease sale.
Your comments, due by Dec. 12, do not have to be technical but should cite specific concerns. It is hoped that the BLM will address these concerns at this stage of the planning process, thus avoiding the need for formal action during the “protest period” in February.
A link to the BLM’s Environmental Assessment and instructions on how to comment be found here: http://on.doi.gov/2b39pWq. An easy to read map of lease sale parcels has been made available by Rocky Mountain Wild at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1itEUsz7CwZZ2FWbFU3RDJzUVk/view.
Diane R. Miller
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