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House Energy Chairman Urges BLM to Reopen Comments on Colorado Leases

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, has urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to revise its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for previously issued oil/natural gas leases in the White River National Forest in Colorado to consider new reserve estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Echoing pleas from the West Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (West Slope COGA), Bishop said members of his congressional committee "are very troubled" by BLM's stated intention to cancel 25 of 65 leases addressed by the White River oil/gas DEIS. Bishop called the USGS report on the Mancos Shale "the best available scientific information" for BLM's ongoing environmental assessment process.

In the report, USGS concluded that the Piceance Basin's Mancos Shale in Colorado contains an estimated 66 Tcf of natural gas, sharply higher than a 2003 estimate of 1.6 Tcf (see Shale DailyJune 8). This calculation for the Mancos is the second-largest potential continuous gas resources assessment ever made by the USGS.

"Lease cancellations under these circumstances damage the critical relationship between the federal government and private enterprise in the development of federal oil/gas contrary to the intent of the Mining and Minerals Policy Act," Bishop told Neil Kornze, BLM director, in a June 30 letter.

Before the House energy chairman's letter, Colorado oil/natural gas industry advocates fired their own shots at BLM, criticizing the Obama administration for "completely ignoring" the USGS estimates on the extent of potential reserves in the Mancos Shale along the Western Slope. Industry groups, including COGA, West Slope COGA, and the Western Energy Alliance have contended that leases on federal lands in the area should not be arbitrarily canceled.

In a joint letter to BLM in mid-June, the industry trio accused the U.S. Forest Service and BLM of "disregarding" new information on the value and importance of the Mancos resource (see Shale DailyJune 20).

In his letter, Bishop urged the BLM to "substantially revised the DEIS analyses and reopen comments on a revised DEIS in light of the USGS Mancos Shale report." Citing Congress' responsibility for overseeing the federal agencies, he said he wanted a written response from BLM by July 15.

David Ludlam, head of West Slope COGA, told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday that he has not heard what BLM's response to the congressional letter will be, but his understanding of the National Environmental Policy Act is that it requires BLM to reopen its DEIS process and incorporate the updated mineral assessment that USGS designated as "significant."

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