Threats to Clean Water, Healthy Air and Thriving Local Economy Prompt Residents’ Protests of BLM’s Decision to Lease Colorado’s North Fork Valley for Oil and Gas Drilling (press release 12.17.12)

12/17/2012
The protests filed with the Bureau of Land Management seeks removal of all 20 Parcels and 20,555 acres of public lands from the agency’s February 2013 Oil and Gas Lease Sale
Location: 
PAONIA, CO

Plans to open up public lands for natural gas fracking in Colorado’s North Fork Valley threaten to pollute the communities’ drinking and agricultural water supplies, breathable air, and a thriving rural economy. To protect these vital resources, Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC) and the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) submitted a formal protest with the BLM Colorado State Office seeking removal of all public lands in the North Fork Valley scheduled to be sold in the February 2013 lease sale.

On behalf of local farmers, residents, and businesses, the groups have asked the BLM to follow the law and hold-off on leasing these parcels pending the completion of the area’s comprehensive Resource Management Plan, which hasn’t been updated since the Reagan Administration. 

“The BLM’s decision to move forward with leasing is unconscionable given the outdated science and planning for these lands,” said CHC director Jim Ramey. “The agency has failed to consider how oil and gas development, including modern drilling techniques such as fracking, would impact people living in the North Fork Valley. Their decision to move forward is reckless.”

In May 2012, following public outrage and the submission of over 3,000 public comments, BLM deferred the North Fork parcels to conduct additional analysis. On November 16, BLM released the additional, but still deficient, analysis and announced plans to lease almost 21,000 acres of public lands at its February 2013 lease sale. 

The BLM’s decision comes despite an ongoing FOIA lawsuit, filed by WELC on behalf of CHC, to disclose the companies that nominated the North Fork parcels and to overturn BLM’s secretive nomination process. 

“BLM’s decision to proceed with leasing the North Fork’s public lands violates the law and common sense,” said WELC Attorney Kyle Tisdel. “We have been submitting extensive comments to the BLM for more than a year now that prove the agency has failed to consider the dramatic impacts to these rural communities’ water, air, and local economy that would result from oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley.”

Local residents, farmers and businesses have been overwhelmingly opposed to the leasing of the area’s public lands. In addition to CHC and WELC’s protest, the area’s farmers, vintners, and many local residents have submitted protests. 

Also filing a protest was North Fork resident and local realtor Bob Lario, who has repeatedly called on the BLM to fully consider socio-economic impacts to the area before making a decision of whether or not to lease. 

"BLM is missing the point on this, they just don't get it," Lario said. "The mere threat of oil and gas leasing has already had economic impacts to not only my business, but many of the businesses in the Valley. We have already lost property sales because people don't want to buy a home in an area that's being eyed for oil and gas drilling."

BLM is encouraged to decide on protests prior to its lease sale, but may or may not resolve protests before the sale on February 14, 2013.  

(For more information on this project, please click here.)

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