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BLM Releases Environmental Assessment on Proposed 100,000-Acre Lease Sale in W. Colorado

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Colorado on Wednesday released an environmental assessment (EA) on its previously announced plans to offer in May up to 100,000 acres for oil and natural gas exploration spread over five counties in the northwestern corner of the state (see Shale DailyAug. 10).

BLM began a 30-day comment period on the EA, which outlines various mitigation measures required to allow the lease sale to go forward. Comments are due by Dec. 12 in the White River Field Office in Meeker, CO.

The proposed sale would include 20 parcels totaling 27,529 acres in Grand County, 12 parcels (9,155 acres) in Jackson County; four parcels (1,928 acres) in Moffat County, 45 parcels (45,331 acres) in Rio Blanco County, and 25 parcels (17,085 acres) in Routt County.

"BLM lands in this proposed lease sale conform to the 2015 Northwest Colorado Greater Sage Grouse Resource Management Plan Amendment," a BLM spokesperson said.

BLM local officials said the agency received 119 comments during the public scoping period announced in August to help identify issues to be addressed in the EA. Andrew Archuleta, northwest district manager for BLM, said the public involvement was "an important part of our evaluation."

"The most effective comments from the public will address issues and concerns specific to the parcels being considered," Archuleta said.

When the proposal was originally made public last August it prompted a positive response from the West Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (WSCOGA), which has been critical of BLM for allegedly reneging on previous leases granted in the state (see Shale Daily, June 20). It cited a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) of the Mancos Shale in the Piceance Basin, which contains an estimated 66 Tcf of natural gas (see Shale DailyJune 16).

The executive director for WSCOGA, David Ludlam said his organization is generally supportive of all BLM lease offerings, but it fundamentally disagrees that an environmental assessment at this part of the process.

"We fundamentally disagree that leases [constitute] the appropriate time to engage in the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] because leasing doesn't and hasn't ever constituted an action on federal lands," Ludlam said. "Instead, NEPA should occur when and if the leases are proposed for development."

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