2013-02-4

“All it takes is one spill, and we’re toast.” – rancher, Landon Deane

“I can’t guarantee you there won’t be a spill,” – Colorado BLM deputy state director for energy and minerals, Lonny Bagley

Worried what unchecked oil and gas drilling would do to their communities and livelihoods, Coloradans are up in arms about the state BLM’s out-of-step oil and gas leasing proposals. State and national outlets have taken notice, as both the New York Times and Denver Post took a look at this issue this weekend. Both stories highlight the controversy surrounding the Colorado BLM, and its Director, Helen Hankins, have created by refusing to follow leasing reforms enacted in 2010 to improve oil and gas leasing on public lands and reduce protests. Hankins and the Colorado BLM are out of step with responsible land management practices in the rest of the West.

Local residents are questioning the agency’s use of a 30-year old Resource Management Plans as part of its determination on which parcels of land should be leased. Hankins and the agency have been unwilling to update these plans, despite the pleas of local elected officials and residents to do so.

“They said there wasn’t enough oil and gas development interest to merit a plan. Then they put up parcels in the county for sale” – Park County administrator, Tom Eisenman.

Hankins also came under fire from a former superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument in a Denver Post column for her ‘irresponsible’ drilling proposals near national parks.

In the New York Times’ article, Hankins claims that her office doesn’t have the “luxury” of delaying the leases. But in fact, BLM policy under the 2010 leasing reforms put into place by Secretary Salazar state:

“The BLM recognizes that, in some cases, leasing of oil and gas resources may not be consistent with protection of other important resources and values. . . . Under applicable laws and policies, there is no presumed preference for oil and gas development over other uses.”

By not adopting these reforms, of Hankins’ outdated approach has given the Colorado the dubious honor of leading the West when it comes to protests against proposed leasing. In the past five years, nearly 9 out of every 10 acres proposed for leasing has come under protest in Colorado. By comparison, protests in Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico have declined by two-thirds to 27%.

“We’re unbelievably blessed by this place here,” he said. “We could be unblessed really quickly.” – farmer Wayne Talmage