GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Two companies with oil and gas leases mired in lawsuits over the Roan Plateau are endorsing a tentative settlement of the case, and several Garfield County commissioners are considering whether to lend their support to resolve a dispute over development of the environmentally sensitive area west of Rifle.

The proposed settlement would free up some leases to be developed, but would allow others to be canceled. It involves federal mineral leases on the top of the Roan, most of which would be relinquished in exchange for allowing development of leases held by several energy companies at the base of the Roan.

The proposed resolution states that the county would support any settlement that allows some drilling to proceed as an option in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s environmental analysis.

Representatives of WPX Energy and Ursa Resources told commissioners they back the tentative settlement, being pursued by Bill Barrett Corp., environmental groups and the federal government. The proposed settlement seeks to resolve a lawsuit by the environmental groups over the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to lease some 55,000 acres for oil and gas development.

Commissioners Tom Jankovsky and John Martin were inclined to sign the resolution supporting a settlement that has been viewed as a reasonable compromise by companies that hold leases and by conservation groups that have challenged those leases.

“If we can get this done, and the oil and gas companies and the environmental groups can have a resolution, we could see drilling back on the top and in the valley floor within a couple of years,” Jankovsky said.

Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, who represents the west end of the county, said he isn’t sure it’s a good idea to support any deal that results in canceled leases.

Representatives for both Ursa Operating Co. and WPX Energy urged the county commissioners to sign the resolution.

“Without a settlement there is a high probability of another four- or five-year delay in any production,” said Jeff Kirkland of WPX.

West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association director David Ludlam said he finds himself in the unusual position of supporting a deal that would result in some leases being canceled.

“This is a middle ground, and it is an opportunity to retain some leases,” he said. “If we don’t reach a settlement, my concern is that we risk losing all of them.”

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