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Businesses join drilling protest

Greg Mass / Glenwood Springs Correspondent

A band of environmental groups was joined last week by Glenwood Springs-area business owners to publicize their efforts to save the pristine wilderness atop Roan Plateau.They held a press conference in front of the Garfield County Courthouse to tout the benefits of using slant, or directional, drilling into the side of the plateau – which is located northwest of Rifle and fronted by a cliffside that dominates the landscape – instead of drilling directly down from the top.”We’re highlighting the fact that not drilling on Roan Plateau is good for business,” said Steve Smith, a volunteer with the Save Roan Plateau campaign.Smith said those in the campaign aren’t against drilling per se, but rather, they’re against allowing natural gas companies to drill on top.Smith said such activity could disturb what is now a “uniquely natural” area.”The (Bureau of Land Management) has calculated already based on drilling predictions that over the next 20 years … 86 percent of the gas could be acquired without going on top,” Smith said.He also said hunting on the Roan Plateau brings in $4 million a year in local revenues.The Bureau of Land Management is expected to release three management alternatives for the plateau within the next month, Smith said. But he’s concerned that each of the alternatives will include some amount of drilling atop the plateau.The press conference was also held to publicize the group’s hope that the Garfield County Commission will support the environmental groups’ vision of no top-drilling on the Roan Plateau.Local business owners also spoke at the press conference, each citing personal and business-related reasons why the top of the plateau should be left alone. Smith said 70 other businesses signed a letter stating similar beliefs.One of those business owners was Scott Brynildson, owner of B & B Plumbing and Heating in Rifle, who said he’d like to see the top of Roan Plateau stay beautiful.”I’m not against natural gas,” he said. “What I am against is their indiscriminate view of where they drill.”He said the densities have become so high, in some places down to just 10 acres for each well, that wildlife, hunting and grazing all could be permanently damaged.To combat this, he said the gas companies should use directional drilling, a technique where workers could drill several bores at a slant from one platform, thereby reducing the environmental damage to the area.”It costs them more, but money shouldn’t be the bottom line of your decision-making,” he said. “I just don’t think they need to drill out every inch of Colorado.”Once the management alternatives are released, the BLM will take public comment and Smith said a final decision on which alternative to use could be chosen by the end of the year.


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