Monday, May 14, 2007

Sacrificing the Roan Plateau

UPDATE on the Roan Plateau

Rocky Mountain News

June 11, 2007

U.S. Department of the Interior
Secretary Dirk Kempthorne
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

I am writing today to express my extreme disappointment with your decision to deny the State of Colorado’s request for a 120-day period to review the Roan Plateau Resources Management Plan prior to your issuing the Record of Decision. I am equally disappointed by your decision to lease the Roan for oil and gas development at this time.

As a new state Administration, we requested the limited additional review time to have the opportunity to recommend approval or modification of the plan, particularly with the enormous public concern over future leasing decisions. As you know, the Roan is a place of exceptional environmental and recreational qualities, and is of great importance to local communities. The 75,000 comments received by the Bureau of Land Management during the public review process reflected a 98% desire to refrain from leasing the top of the Roan. Your decision to ignore these public comments and limit my Administration’s participation in the process undermines efforts to build what should be a cooperative federal/state relationship.

Equally concerning is your immediate push to lease the Roan at this time. The Plateau is surrounded by other BLM land where the agency has already committed to extensive drilling. For example, your White River Management Plan adjacent to the Roan calls for 22,000 new wells over the next 15 years. The nearby Glenwood/Kremmling Management Plan calls for an additional 15,000 new wells. The Little Snake and Hiawatha Management Plans call for 6,000 additional wells. These projections are additive to tens of thousands of wells projected on nearby private lands. With approximately 120 rigs currently available in Colorado, it will be many years before the Roan would be needed to meet additional demand. There is absolutely no reason why certain special places, like the Roan, cannot be deferred for leasing while these other projects go forward.

BLM Director James Hughes’ reliance on the Naval Shale Oil Reserve statute as the reason for expedited leasing of the Roan is clearly a misstatement of the law. Nothing in the statute prevents deferring leasing decisions during the near term. In fact, BLM’s original set of alternatives for the Roan included "no-drill" options.

Similarly, Director Hughes’ reference to an earlier Colorado Department of Natural Resources plan for the Roan omits the fact that an election was held in Colorado, and that I lead a new Administration. The citizens of this State are concerned about the management of our public lands, the scale and pace of energy development, and the ability of our local communities to plan for and manage the extraordinary impacts that inevitably come with increased leasing and extraction. I am intent on finding the balance between protecting our environment, traditional economies, and special places with allowing and planning for responsible future oil and gas development.

Your decision has led me to take a more active role in working with Congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall, as well as other members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation, to support funding limitations on the Department of Interior’s Appropriations Bill, or other legislation that will restrict BLM from going forward with leasing of the Roan during the coming year.

Finally, I share Director Hughes’ concern about the impact of his decision on the cooperating agency relationship between Colorado and the Department of Interior. This relationship must be based on a mutual respect for our respective values and missions. In the past, this relationship has worked to overcome initial disagreements and to find mutually acceptable land management plans. Unfortunately, the Department of Interior’s actions on the Roan undermine this past spirit of cooperation.


Bill Ritter, Jr.

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will
be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln

Here is one example of PPP's, or Public/Private Partnerships:

A Land Out of Time

Coal-Bed Methane (CBM)

When I was considering a move to southeastern Wyoming, I checked out the land use policies of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to see what was doing in the Red Desert, which was near where I wanted to settle. That was when I became aware of Coal-Bed Methane (CBM), which is a natural gas trapped in fossil coal seams. In Wyoming, as well as New Mexico and Colorado, there is a lot of methane underground - in the trillions of cubic meters. We cook with methane gas, so America needs a lot of methane. It is also pumped out of the Gulf of Mexico.

I also did some research on the environmental impact that drilling for gas has on wildlife in the Great Basin area - disrupting the ancient migration patterns of the Pronghorn antelope; sage grouse nesting, elk migration and breeding patterns disrupted. But that is for another day. What I found however, was enough to dissuade me from moving to Wyoming.

The Department of the Interior, working through the BLM and other agencies, has fast-tracked the necessary extraction policies, and oversees the extraction by private companies (thus the PPP label), which are laying the infrastructure needed to get it out of the ground and piped to its destinations. In order to lay the many thousands of miles of pipeline necessary, the land is simply sacrificed. The rivers and streams are polluted, the wildlife, and any human inhabitants are driven off the land.

I'm addressing this situation of getting at the methane, because of the current administration's increasing reliance on ever-bigger and more powerful PPP deals, which usually implicate the state governments as well. The PPP's are often seen as ripe fruit for foreign investors. It's Monopoly and craps and Texas Hold-Em all rolled together. And therein lies the problem. President Bush tipped his hand, when he said: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier - just so long as I'm the dictator, heh heh."

But this is not a dictatorship, President Bush, and you are not the dictator. Heh, heh. And we aim to see it stays that way.

Much of the drilling and wellheads are on once-pristine public land, which is leased to private companies like BP Global and Fruitland Coal companies. But not all of the wells are being drilled on public land. If you own land which the geologists have determined contains coal, they can drill on your property too. And you can't stop them, because the government 'owns' the mineral rights.

To give a quick idea of the process, here is a simplified view:

To get the methane gas trapped in vast coal seams, they drill a well, and start pumping water out of it, decreasing pressure inside. As the pressure decreases, the methane trapped in the coal seams is released, which is then pumped out and compressed. The water pumped out must be dealt with as part of the deal with the gas-getters. Despite what the glowing brochures on the websites of these companies say, the salinity of much of the discharge water is toxic, being not just sodium rich, but also containing toxic levels of calcium and magnesium, as well as being arsenic and copper laden. It can only be de-toxified by diluting it with good water. A lot of good water. There are several methods of dealing with the millions of gallons of pumped-out (toxic) water, none of them as you can imagine, environmental friendly. The government owns the water, too - but they choose not to exercise their claim once it's above ground.

The operation of even a even a few wells requires an infrastructure of many miles of roads, pipelines and transmission (pumping) facilities. Much of the land owned is only surface-owned. The government retains the mineral rights, which means if you have a ranch or farm, and the government leases the mineral rights to, say Fruitland Coal, they have a right to build whatever they want, as long as they pay the surface owner a percentage. But, it's good-bye ranch. The once pristine Powder River Basin now looks like a highway road map. Ranchers, farmers, and environmentalists alike are feeling embittered by the imperious attitude of the Bureau of Land Management. If BP Global comes knocking on your door, lease in hand, you better hire a good lawyer, because what you sign in "agreement" with the gas-getter, you are stuck with. You are also stuck with auditory pollution, should a compressor station be anywhere near where you happen to live. The sound is deafening.

The BLM, spearheading the efforts of the Dept of Interior, are providing the laws and regulations necessary for the oil-getters and the gas-getters and the tree-getters to rape the land here in America. Farmers and ranchers lie awake at night, wondering how long before they are pushed off the land that has been in their family often for generations.

And if that weren't enough good news for one day, the rough-necks, the crews working these gas fields are often hooked on methamphetamine. Meth begets meth. It is devastating on the surrounding communities. Meth labs spring up, since the demand is great. Any children caught up in this terrible onslaught, suffer both physically and emotionally, as they are often sexually abused. Meth drives the sexual appetite to aberrance like no other drug.

If you want a more recent example of an ever-increasingly imperious government policy, ask the millions of Texans who are about to be displaced in the current PPP - see (TTC). In pursuing it's agendas, the government is steamrolling over any and everybody to get it's way. The Texas legislature just passed a 2-year moratorium on the Corridor, but it's still playing out, because Texas Governor Perry has yet to sign the bill. He would be foolish to veto, as the bill has over-whelming support in both houses. Still the Texans don't sleep easy these nights. Who can blame them?

Public opinon? Don't make me laugh. They are not interested in public opinion. A public show of defiance, however, as the Texans demonstrated, will give them pause.

I plan to move to Colorado in the fall, as far away from the well-heads as possible.