DENVER (AP) – With energy development still active in northwest Colorado, the federal government released a draft Wednesday for guiding oil and gas drilling in the Piceance Basin over the next 20 years.
The Bureau of Land Management said the public can comment on the draft White River Resource Management Plan Oil and Gas Amendment through Dec. 14.
The draft analyzes four alternatives for potential energy development on 1.7 million acres of federal leasable minerals in parts of Rio Blanco, Moffat and Garfield counties, taking into account higher levels of development than were anticipated when the BLM adopted an overarching land use plan for the area in 1997.
The energy sector has expanded in western Colorado in the last decade, but that’s slowing as natural gas prices remain low. Some companies are shifting rigs to areas richer in oil.
Nevertheless, the BLM draft includes proposals such as state-of-the-art emissions controls to mitigate impacts to the environment as development continues. It also proposes ways to balance the protection of untouched wildlife habitat with drilling, which contributes millions of dollars annually to the state economy.
The BLM listed as its preferred alternative an option that could result in 15,042 new wells and 1,800 new well pads. The BLM estimated that option, listed as Alternative C, could create 5,431 jobs and generate nearly $121 million in extra state severance tax revenue by 2030. Alternative C also would generate a projected increase of $83.3 million in county property tax revenue by 2030, the BLM said.
Other alternatives would allow for projections of fewer or more wells, with differences in restrictions and what types of areas would be open or closed to leasing. All include proposals for reducing impacts to sensitive resources, including wildlife.
The BLM said it expects a final decision on a plan in April 2014.
“As part of the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, we are working to expand safe and responsible oil and gas exploration and production,” acting BLM director Mike Pool said in a written statement. “We know that energy production is a major economic engine for Colorado, and we worked with our partners to craft a wide range of possible alternatives for public review and comment. This draft plan amendment considers a number of development scenarios and suggests environmental protections that will ensure that oil and gas activities are conducted in appropriate areas using best practices.”
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