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Thompson Divide leases extended 2 more years over environmental questions

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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is extending gas leases for two energy companies in the disputed Thompson Divide area for another two years while the agency works to resolve environmental issues.

The agency admitted a "deficient" environmental analysis resulted in the leases being issued 11 years ago in the area south of Glenwood Springs.

One of the companies, Houston-based SG Interests, applied last year to develop test wells on leases in its Lake Ridge Unit following a BLM decision in 2013 granting a one-year extension.

Those leases, along with a similar group of leases held by Ursa Piceance LLC that were also due to expire, were extended in order to allow the BLM adequate time to review the environmental reports.

The agency wants time to determine whether the leases should be voided, reaffirmed or subject to additional mitigation measures.

Several local governments and conservation groups had objected to SG and Ursa's requests for the lease extensions.

"We're not sure why BLM can't give our administrative appeal the same prompt attention the agency gives to requests from industry, but we are gratified that BLM admits the SG and Ursa leases are illegal, and has launched a process that can cancel them," said Pitkin County Assistant Attorney Chris Seldin. "Now it's up to the public to make its voice heard."

Pitkin County commissioners were joined by the Carbondale Board of Trustees and the Glenwood Springs City Council in opposing the lease extension requests. The Carbondale-based Thompson Divide Coalition and Wilderness Workshop had also opposed the requests, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported Tuesday (http://tinyurl.com/oghjfna).

Two energy industry groups said in a joint statement Monday that the BLM made the right decision.

The companies would like to develop natural gas from these leases, but BLM has prevented development for various reasons, including lengthy analysis and a failure to approve permits to drill.

Seldin cited two recent independent geologic and economic feasibility reports that questioned the economic viability of drilling for natural gas in the Thompson Divide region, calling the efforts to develop gas leases in the area "speculative."


Information from: Post Independent, http://www.postindependent.com/

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