Today, the Colorado Bureau of Land Management State Director Helen Hankins’ office announced it will extend the life of about two dozen oil and gas leases acquired by SG Interests and Ursa Resources Group in Colorado’s Thompson Divide area. These leases were set to expire this year because leaseholders had failed to conduct any meaningful development in 10 years. Dir. Hankins’ move runs contrary to stated goals by the Obama administration that oil and gas companies develop leases or that land be returned to the public. SG Interests and Ursa did not have to pay for the lease extension and continue to hold the leases for speculative purposes.

Ellynne Bannon, The Checks and Balances Project western energy lands program manager released the following statement:

“Once again, Colorado BLM Director Hankins is showing what a great real estate agent she is for oil and gas companies She’s ignoring the will of the communities around Thompson Divide and putting drinking water, farming and ranching businesses at risk in order to provide another freebie to oil and gas companies. Hankins’ actions represent exactly what she shouldn’t do as a steward of the public’s land and water.”

Background facts:

  • Director Hankins has a long track record of ignoring public concerns and putting communities at risk. Earlier this year, Hankins proposed drilling right next to Mesa Verde National Park and Dinosaur National Monument – including parcels next to a visitor center and park entrances. Hankins also re-offered highly controversial drilling leases in the midst of Denver Metro’s drinking water supplies and the agricultural North Fork Valley.
  • Director Hankins’ actions are out of step with President Obama and the Department of Interior’s policy on leases not in production – which is essentially “use it or lose it.” Currently, 21 million of the total 37 million acres in federal BLM lands leased for oil and gas drilling are not in production or exploration. The oil and gas industry also holds 7,000 idle drilling permits on federal lands.
  • A 2012 analysis found that that hunting, fishing, grazing, and recreation activities in the Thompson Divide support nearly 300 jobs and $30 million a year in economic value. Yet, Dir. Hankins seems intent on jeopardizing these jobs and revenue stream by extending controversial leases in the Divide, where a large local constituency relies upon recreation, ranching and hunting – and clean water and air – for their livelihoods.