BLM rejects protest of mineral sale south of New Castle |

BLM rejects protest of mineral sale south of New Castle

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs Correspondet
Vail, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” The Bureau of Land Management has decided not to uphold a protest the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) lodged against the sale of a federal mineral parcel below the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area.

The move now clears the way for potential additional natural gas development in the wildlife area. Orion Energy Partners is currently building a pipeline for one exploratory well pad in the habitat, which the DOW uses as winter range for elk and deer and to keep area wildlife off of Interstate 70,

Jim Sample, a spokesman for the BLM, said the agency did not uphold the DOW’s protest because the parcel’s lease includes several protections that will reduce disturbances to area wildlife.

Those measures include seasonal drilling restrictions and a no-surface occupancy stipulation. That language requires gas companies to extract the natural gas from other areas to minimize surface disturbances.

However, the BLM can grant an exception to that stipulation, and the DOW has previously said it would oppose any exception.

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“Between seasonal timing restrictions and the NSO stipulations, we believe we can address all of the (DOW’s) concerns in a positive manner,” said Sample, adding additional site-specific review would have to occur when a permit to drill for the parcel is being processed.

DOW officials went to the BLM in January, asking that the sale of the federal parcel in the state wildlife area be delayed indefinitely because the land on top provides “crucial winter range for deer and elk that are finding fewer and fewer places to inhabit without conflict.”

But in its Feb. 14 lease sale, the BLM sold the 360 acres for $2,400 an acre to Meadow Ridge No. 3 LLC, according to reports at the time.

The state cannot block drilling from occurring in the refuge because it does not own the mineral rights below the surface.

The DOW protested the sale of 27 parcels, all of which were spread out over the state. The BLM deferred three other leases at the request of state wildlife officials, but not the Garfield Creek parcel.

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the DOW, declined to comment on the BLM’s move because his agency hadn’t formally received notice of the decision as of late Tuesday.

The BLM’s decision comes about a month after the DOW reluctantly reached an agreement with Orion Energy Partners that cleared the way for the company to drill one exploratory well and build a pipeline in the 13,200-acre state wildlife area.

The DOW’s agreement calls for the company to comply with several measures to reduce impacts on area wildlife.

Orion’s plans for the area got off to a difficult start after a contractor’s backhoe struck a rock in the wildlife area, sparking a 6-acre fire. Local fire officials, which requested a single-engine plane and helicopters to help battle the blaze, estimate the total cost of fighting the fire at about $40,760.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

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