The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been running roughshod across the West claiming private land in Texas, threatening water rights in Colorado, and creating tougher restrictions on public lands that would curb energy development.
Now the BLM has decided to conduct an unprecedented retroactive environmental review of 64 oil and gas leases on the Western Slope, a move that energy supporters say is a backdoor attempt to pull the ten-year leases, some in areas where producing wells have already been developed and provide jobs.
The BLM claims the initial review conducted by the Forest Service was defective, and as part of their new and improved dog-and-pony show have held hearings in Aspen, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs to collect input from the public.
And by public, we mean the Thompson Divide Coalition, an environmental group whose stated mission is “to secure permanent protection from oil and gas development of federal lands,” particularly in the White River National Forest.
Compounding the problem for leaseholders is the intervention of Colorado’s Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, who are sponsoring legislation that would effectively kill their investments and the Western Slope jobs it supports.
Ironically, former Bennet Senate staffer Zane Kessler leads the coalition that has played a prominent role to have the federal leases axed, and who also attended the Aspen hearing.
Udall even made a rare appearance at the meeting in Carbondale to urge the federal bureaucrats to protect the area against traditional energy development.
However, when the last public hearing is held today from 4-7 p.m. at the De Beque Community Center, expect to see more support for the leases and the paychecks it provides to working Westerners, and less support from the environmental minions of politicians and wealthy Aspenites.