Potential oil, gas drilling in future

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Residents of the Tri-Lakes area were invited to a public scoping meeting about potential plans by the Bureau of Land Management to open drilling leases.

The meeting, which was one of five meetings that took place across Colorado and Kansas, took place May 22 at Bear Creek Elementary School in Monument. Other meetings have taken place in Fairplay, Walsenburg and Springfield and Elkhart, Kan.

The meeting was put together by the U.S. Forest Service and Oscar Martinez, ecosystem staff officer for the forest service.

Potential oil and gas drilling could take place in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Cimarron and Comanche Grasslands. A review of stipulations is being done by the Forest Service. Oil and gas stipulations are restrictions that are put on federal surface lands that are designated to protect an identified resource from potential oil and gas leasing impacts.

“We are in the early stages of the Environmental Impact Statement for a review of stipulations for drilling should it occur on that surface,” Martinez said, adding that the forest service owns the surface rights and BLM owns the sub-surface rights.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, 36 CFR 228.102(e) (1), if there is significant new information or circumstances requiring an environmental analysis, an environmental analysis must be done before leasing decisions for specific lands shall be made.

The forest service wants input from citizens to identify cultural, social, economic or environmental importance that could be impacted by oil and gas leasing. Resources to be considered would be recreation, wildlife and their habitat, visuals heritage, ground and surface water, range, noxious weeds, air quality, special interest areas, paleontological, research natural areas, soils and oil and gas resources.

The forests have a potential for coalbed methane wells and oil and gas wells while the grasslands only have potential for oil and gas wells according to information that was given to citizens who attended the meetings.

Maps of the study area were shown at the meetings. Maps as well as additional information are available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/psicc/landmanagement/projects/?cid=stelprdb5418254. The public has until June 20 to turn in comments about their concerns or possible alternatives that the forest service has not considered.

Comments can be sent electronically at the website or they can be mailed to: PSICC Oil and Gas Scoping Comments, PSICC Supervisor’s Office 2840 Kachina Drive Pueblo, Colo. 81008.

Martinez said the draft should be ready by fall and then there will be an opportunity for public input again.

“We’re still about a year-and-a-half away from the final decision,” Martinez said.