Group sends flood of anti-drilling e-mail |

Group sends flood of anti-drilling e-mail

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” All but seven of about 42,000 people who commented on how the federal government should manage the most ecologically sensitive areas of the Roan Plateau say it should be protected from natural gas drilling.

That’s according to an analysis of the comments by the Campaign to Save Roan Plateau, which has been fighting to keep drill rigs off the entire top of the plateau, northwest of Rifle about 100 miles from Vail.

“How much more unanimous does the public have to be?” Brian Bernhardt, with the Campaign to Save Roan Plateau, asked in a news release Monday announcing its findings.

At issue is how the U.S. Bureau of Land Management should manage what are called “areas of critical environmental concern” on the plateau. These are places requiring special management to protect

In June, the agency issued a final decision for the plateau’s management, including a controversial plan to allow oil and gas drilling to occur on the plateau top. However, that decision currently applies to a little more than 50,000 acres.

Of the total comments, 41,539 were submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which collected them on a Web site. Many of the comments were identical ones people submitted based on a sample letter.

Jamie Connell, manager of the land bureau’s Glenwood Springs Field Office, said the agency hasn’t completed its own analysis of those comments yet but the analysis by the Campaign to Save Roan Plateau could be correct.

She noted that a large group of those comments came from one source.

“I would expect all of them to have been supportive of the no-drilling option,” she said of that group.

Marc Smith, executive director of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, questioned the significance of comments originating from one source.

“Is this reflective of the … tactics of special interest groups who are opposed to oil and gas development, to generate large campaigns against energy development? I don’t know,” he said.

As for the pro-industry comments, the Campaign to Save Roan Plateau said three of the seven comments came from Smith’s organization.

A U.S. House energy bill amendment would protect the top of the Roan from drilling. The Senate energy bill lacks that provision and the two versions of the bill have yet to be reconciled. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter is currently in the midst of a 120-day period the land bureau has provided him to weigh in on its Roan plan. Connell said Ritter has asked for an extension that would give him until mid-December to submit his comments.

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