The BLM released a proposed final plan for its Oil and Gas Amendment to a Resource Management Plan for the White River Field Office in Colorado in March 2015. The plan proposes drilling over 15,000 new oil and gas wells in the Piceance Basin (up from 1,800 wells currently) over the next 20 years, but offers some improvements over previous drafts in terms of conservation. The amendment process took nine years and was started in response to increased interest in drilling because of high market prices. But ever since the peak of natural gas prices in 2008, its value has plummeted. This bust has had huge economic impacts on communities in Colorado, but has also given agency managers time to evaluate plans for future drilling.
The plan calls for an air quality monitoring and modeling program that forecasts what the cumulative impacts of what 17,000 wells will mean for the region, which is not often done in BLM plans. The plan forecasts over 4.1 million metric tons of CO2 will be released annually, which is more than a typical coal-fired power plant produces, along with other air and ground pollutants.
The plan recognizes 100,000 acres of lands with wilderness character and affords them some level of protection, as opposed to the nearly 600,000 acres proposed for industrial development.
The agency proposed the Dinosaur Trails Master Leasing Plan (MLP) which aims to reduce conflicts between conservation and development for the area south of Dinosaur National Monument. The MLP will identify sensitive areas and resources before drilling occurs and will use phased leasing to reduce impacts to the monument and wildlife habitat.
While conservationists are happy that the plan contains improvements over previous drafts, there are still many concerns about its large scale development, the enormous amount of green house gas pollution, failure to protect endangered fish from water depletions and chemical spills, impacts to sage grouse, and lack of protections for areas of critical environmental concern. Formal objections have been filed to address those concerns.
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