The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday released its management plan for drilling on the Roan Plateau, home of a great deal of biodiversity as well as large amounts of oil and gas. Last year, Gov. Ritter proposed a number of environmental compromises to establish more responsible drilling plans on top of the Plateau. The BLM’s decision disregards the majority of those proposals.
“In December, Ritter sent recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management—a division of the Department of Interior—asking for areas considered the most environmentally sensitive under the bureau’s plan be expanded to 36,184 acres from 21,034 acres. [The] plan also suggested phasing in leases on top of the plateau rather than leasing the land all at once, effectively increasing the protected areas on the plateau.
But the federal government ignored most of Ritter’s suggestions, submitting a plan Thursday without significant changes from one issued last June.”
Thankfully, Colorado’s Congressional Democrats issued statements expressing their disappointment with the BLM’s decision. Rep. Mark Udall hinted that legislation based on Gov. Ritter’s proposal will be written. While this is good news, I’m left wondering if that level of action will be enough to forestall excessive exploitation of the Plateau. I can’t see Bush signing any such legislation by itself, being as his BLM just rejected the proposal. Will it be introduced as part of a larger measure? It’s too early to tell, though I’ll watch for developments. By the way, the Denver Post’s Editorial Board (!) wrote today that the call should be reversed, by legislation if necessary.
This decision comes after the people in local towns, counties and across the state have clearly indicated their opposition to the kind of drilling found at the base of the Roan Plateau being extended to the top. Chalk up one more example of the Bush administration ignoring what the people want: industry profits trump everything.
Speaking of which, here’s what Greg Schnacke, former executive vice president of a state oil and gas group and the head of Americans for American Energy said:
“This decision is equivalent to the BLM giving Colorado a $1 billion winning lottery ticket.”
Is that so, Greg? Tell me, how much will it cost the taxpayers of Colorado to clean up the industrial mess left behind once the oil and gas is pumped dry? What happens when the drillers dump their mess into streams and pollute the watershed? What happens if an accident occurs and oil or gas washes over the landscape? Will the drillers pay for that or will the Coloradans who didn’t want the drilling to take place be stuck with the tab again?
Because I’ll tell you what Greg, the people of Colorado understand that they’ve already got a winning lottery ticket in their hands: an unspoiled Roan Plateau. Left as is, it’s worth more to us than anything your industry could dig up. Your lottery ticket is a rip-off and we don’t want ours stolen from us.
With our options running out, I heartily support legislative action to at least limit the kind and amount of drilling that can take place. It’s a far cry than what should happen, but it’s a step away from the mess the BLM and Bush’s cronies want to impose on us.