US agency OKs 2 Colorado drilling projects, to study others

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GRAND JUNCTION |  The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved two drilling projects in Colorado for a second time after considering a court-ordered greenhouse gas assessment of their environmental effects.

The two upper North Fork Valley drilling projects will total up to 226 wells and result in up to 15.66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over a 30-year period, the Daily Sentinel reported Thursday.

That figure amounts to “a very small percentage (approximately 0.2%) of expected emissions from all oil and gas sources in Colorado for the same 30-year period,” Stephanie Connolly, manager of the land agency’s Colorado Southwest District, said in her findings.

The plans involve the companies SG Interests and Gunnison Energy.

In 2019, a judge ruled that the Trump administration did not adequately examine the indirect environmental impact of burning oil and gas and its effect on the local deer and elk populations.

In a separate case involving drilling in western Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management agreed to do additional environmental analysis of oil and gas leases issued on more than 70 square miles (180 square kilometers) of land before any drilling can proceed.

The agreement, reached while settling a lawsuit from conservation groups, applies to 53 leases in Mesa and Garfield counties that were offered in 2016 and 2017, the Sentinel reported. The lawsuit challenged the land agency’s failure to conduct site-specific environmental reviews in approving the leases.

It alleged the agency relied on regional resource management plans rather than conducting more comprehensive environmental reviews of the potential effects of drilling before offering the leases. The groups say the plans could threaten water and air quality in the region.

Peter Hart, staff attorney for the nonprofit Wilderness Workshop, said in a statement that “we’re happy today that the bureau will not approve more development on these leases until the real impacts are considered and disclosed to the public.”

The Bureau of Land Management said in a statement that its “supplemental analysis will augment prior analyses with updated scientific information.”

Plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court lawsuit included the Wilderness Workshop, the Center for Biological Diversity, Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club.

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This story has been updated to correct the amount of carbon dioxide emissions expected from the two upper North Fork Valley drilling projects.

 

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