The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are seeking feedback on a proposed pipeline project in the West Mamm Creek area south of Rifle.
TEP Rocky Mountain LLC (TEP) and Grand River Gathering, LLC (GRG) want authorization to build a series of six to eight-inch pipelines that run roughly seven miles in total through private, USFS, and BLM land to carry natural gas and produced water, a byproduct of drilling, between existing oil and gas infrastructure in the area.
The federal agencies have noted the pipelines would support future oil and gas development in West Mamm Creek.
The public comments will help the USFS and BLM develop potential alternative plans and determine whether or not to prepare a full environmental impact statement for the project.
On Thursday, a group of ecologists and politicians scouted the West Mamm Creek region as part of an EcoFlight.
EcoFlight is a nonprofit organization with a mission to advocate for wild lands by flying influential policymakers, journalists, and other interested citizens in small planes around western Colorado to get an aerial perspective of the landscape.
Ecologist Delia Malone was on the flight that left from the Rifle Garfield County Airport to see the potential impact of the proposed pipelines. She’s based in the Roaring Fork Valley and serves as the wildlife chair for Colorado’s Sierra Club chapter.
Malone said more natural gas infrastructure only increases the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.
“We continue on promoting and endorsing the same behavior, oil and gas extraction and fossil fuel burning, that got us into the climate change issue that we’re at,” Malone said. “When the climate is changing, it also alters the vegetation. It impacts the fire regime. Habitat is degraded.”
Malone is not alone. Elizabeth Velasco is the Democratic State Representative for Colorado House District 57.
She was at the Rifle Garfield County Airport with other state legislators on Thursday to participate in a different EcoFlight where she surveyed a series of burn scars in western Colorado.
Velasco said she is opposed to the project and plans on filing her comments with the BLM.
“There’s going to be a big impact on the nature and the ecosystem of the community,” Velasco said. “This is wildlife habitat. And also it is going to affect our air quality and our water quality deeply, which we already see with so much oil and gas impact in the community.”
Republican State Sen. Perry Will supports oil and gas development in Garfield County, but he plans to do more research about the West Mamm Creek Pipeline Project before he makes any formal comments to the BLM.
“I’m not anti-oil and gas, so I look at it from that lens,” Will said. “But I’m also a huge wildlife advocate, so I look at it through that lens … And we just flew over it a little while ago. You see the fracturing of the habitat. It’s so obvious from the air.”
The USFS and BLM estimate pipeline construction will take roughly four months, according to the agencies’ Notice of Proposed Action.
Since the West Mamm Creek Pipeline Project is adjacent to existing oil and gas infrastructure, the agencies do not expect the pipelines will cause many additional disturbances.
The notice states that the proposed project is on the periphery of Canada lynx habitat, but that the area is not viable for the species.
The USFS and BLM have asserted they will reseed the construction zone above the pipelines and monitor the area until it is fully restored.
When the public comment period is over, the two federal agencies will have three options: accept, modify, or reject the current project proposal.
The BLM did not respond to repeated requests for comment in time for publication.
Comments from the public will be accepted here until midnight on Monday, Sept. 11.