DENVER (AP) — A new plan for oil and gas development in energy-rich northwestern Colorado would ease restrictions on what time of year drilling rigs can operate on federal land if well sites are consolidated to minimize disruptions to the environment.

The federal Bureau of Land Management released a proposal Friday for drilling on about 2,700 square miles in Rio Blanco County and parts of Moffat and Garfield counties.

The BLM says the area could yield more than 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to heat 7.5 million homes for 15 years. The agency reviewed the possible impacts if more than 15,000 wells were drilled on 1,100 sites over 20 years.

The release of the plan triggers a 30-day period for public protests. A final decision is expected later this year.

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