RBC I The Bureau of Land Management on Friday released its Proposed Oil and Gas Amendment to the White River Field Office Resource Management Plan, which will help guide oil and gas development in northwestern Colorado’s Piceance Basin for the next 20 years.
The proposed plan advances the Dinosaur Trail Master Leasing Plan, a targeted planning effort aimed at minimizing impacts to the nearby Dinosaur National Monument and other resources.
The proposed amendment outlines a number of progressive mitigation measures to reduce impacts of increased oil and gas production across 1.7 million acres of leasable federal minerals in Rio Blanco County, southern Moffat County, and a small part of northern Garfield County.
“We have world class oil and gas resources under world class wildlife habitat, and this plan provides unique solutions to manage both of those resources,” said Kent Walter, BLM White River Field Office Manager in Meeker.
The majority of minerals administered by the White River Field Office are already leased for oil and gas development. The Proposed Plan Amendment uses an incentive-based approach to minimize the amount of surface disturbance and disruption to wildlife.
“With today’s technology, oil and gas operators are drilling multiple wells on each well pad through directional drilling, which helps concentrate development in specific areas, leaving larger blocks of habitat undisturbed,” Walter said. “Operators who work with us to keep disturbance below specified thresholds will be eligible for exceptions to limitations on the time of year drilling is allowed.”
The Proposed Plan Amendment includes the 422,600-acre Dinosaur Trail Master Leasing Plan, which identifies a strategic plan for leasing and development in the northwestern corner of the field office. The Master Leasing Plan includes a phased leasing approach and a number of specific stipulations to minimize impacts to sensitive resources, including Dinosaur National Monument.
The Proposed Plan Amendment is a blend of the four alternatives analyzed in the Draft EIS released in 2012.
The BLM analyzed the impacts associated with the potential development of more than 15,000 oil and gas wells drilled on 1,100 well pads over the next 20 years in the Proposed Plan Amendment. That level of development could yield more than 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to heat 7.5 million homes for 15 years—and lead to a net increase of more than 10,000 jobs in northwestern Colorado.
The Proposed Plan Amendment also identifies 137,650 acres to be managed for wilderness characteristics, in addition to the 82,800 acres already designated as Wilderness Study Areas.
The Proposed Plan Amendment was announced in the Federal Register on Friday, which begins a 30-day public protest period ending April 27 as well as a 60-day governor’s consistency review. The BLM expects to release a final decision later this year.
The Proposed Plan Amendment and associated EIS can be found at: www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/wrfo.html.