July 31, 2008

Roan Drilling Plans Draw 17,000 Protests

Gov. Bill Ritter's administration, along with thousands of others, submitted protests Wednesday to the Bureau of Land Management over a federal plan to open public land on the Roan Plateau near Rifle to natural gas extraction.

Opponents turned in more than 17,000 protests and said it shows that local communities want stronger protection for the Roan, a region treasured by hunters and environmentalists that also is a vast storehouse for natural gas.

The BLM is offering oil and gas leases on 55,186 acres of public land on the plateau in an Aug. 14 auction in Denver. Wednesday was the deadline for filing protests.

A coalition of 10 environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court this month seeking to block the lease sale.

The Bush administration in March rejected a Ritter- backed proposal that recommended protecting more Roan land from drilling and phasing in leases rather than offering them all at once.

Sen. Ken Salazar and Congressmen Mark Udall and John Salazar - all Colorado Democrats - have asked Interior Secretary Dirk Kemp- thorne to exclude public land on the Roan from leasing so they can pursue a bill that would include protections favored by Ritter and others.

Originally published by Rocky Mountain News.

(c) 2008 Rocky Mountain News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.