Sierra Club’s ED, Michael Brune, is touring our National Parks, Monuments and other wildlands in the West as part of their “Our Wild America” campaign, He stopped in Rifle, Colorado, to look at the Roan Plateau, and EcoFlight flew him, the press, and others from the Sierra Club, over the Roan and surrounding devastating industrial development. The Sierra Club is one of the conservation groups who successfully challenged federal oil and gas leasing on top of the Roan in 2008. The BLM is now re-evaluating the potential impacts of a leasing plan in the area.
On the ground, Brune met with nearby residents who have been impacted by the industry. They discussed what it is like to live in the gas fields, and talked about the Sierra Club’s policy work to promote protective regulations and support clean energy.
Rising 3,000 feet above the Colorado River, the Roan Plateau offers a biodiversity in trout streams and rolling aspen forests and habitat for big game that bring in $5 million and 1,500 hunter visits per year that fuel the local recreation economy. The BLM has identified four critical areas on the Roan for eligible for protection as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, totaling over 36,000 acres. An island among a sea of industrial oil and gas development, the Roan offers a last hold out for prime wildlife habitat in the region. As industry threatens to ramp up development, and the BLM takes its fresh look at environmental analysis of drilling on the Roan, it is critical for citizens to hold strong on protections for the Roan Plateau.
15,000 wells have been drilled in the Piceance Basin since 2000, and there are estimates for up to 30,000 more. We have seen how fast a landscape can be bulldozed and drilled when the price of natural gas is high enough. In the mid 2000's there were more drilling rigs in Garfield County than in Saudi Arabia. Some predictions are showing a growth spike in the price and economy of natural gas in the near future, which will undoubtedly put more pressure on areas like the Roan.
The cumulative impacts of drilling are significant, to say the least, on wildlife habitat, water and air quality, and the communities who live nearby. And industry has proven that it cannot always be trusted to police itself. In 2012, nearly 400 oil and gas spills were reported to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, including 66 instances in which ground or surface water remediation measures were required.
We hope the aerial perspective helps deepen your understanding of the oil and gas development in the Piceance Basin.