Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Federal oil and gas leasing draws ire, support in rural Colorado

President Obama's "all of the above" energy policy, which calls for oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres of public land, is meeting opposition from concerned organic farmers and residents in the rural North Fork Valley of western Colorado.

In March, leases for 114,932 acres of Colorado land will be auctioned, "a tiny piece of what Mr. Obama lauded during last year’s campaign as a historic effort to increase domestic natural-gas production," Jack Healy reports for The New York Times, adding that the reactions of Colorado's citizens are mixed.

Many Paonia residents oppose the leasing, fearing its impact on organic farming and tourism, while many residents of more Republican communities support it because of the jobs and and tax revenues they hope it will bring. Some have also voiced concern about oil spills. The opponents apparently include the weekly Delta County Independent, which described a heated meeting of Bureau of Land Management officials and about 200 Paonia residents in a recent article by asking,"Does anyone in the BLM care about the people and land in the North Fork Valley for anything other than making money from oil and gas leasing?"

Paonia Mayor Neal Schieterman argued that officials were using an outdated resource plan that did not take into consideration the valley's  tourism and organic farming, and said the lease sale should be postponed until a better plan could be developed, Healy reports.

Bruce Bertram, who monitors oil and gas for the county commissioners, as having a different perspective. Since only one of the 27 wells drilled in the county in the last 10 years was on federal land, Bertram argued that that "drilling was already at the doorstep to the valley," as Healy put it.

“Some of the folks aren’t making a good judgment about what’s good and bad,” Bertram told Healy. “There’s a built-in distrust of government and business. And that permeates through the whole area.” (Read more)

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