By The Associated Press
DENVER | With Congress back in session, groups opposed to gas drilling on top of the Roan Plateau were ready to launch a TV ad backing a provision in the federal energy bill to bar development on public land atop the western Colorado landmark.
The 30-second spot was set to start airing on western Colorado television and cable stations Wednesday, Sept. 5. The ad, paid for by the Colorado Environmental Coalition, thanks Colorado Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar, both Democrats, for sponsoring an amendment in the House version of the energy bill that would bar energy development on federal land on the plateau’s top.
The Senate didn’t include the provision, which will be part of the discussion as Congress reconciles the differences between the two chambers’ versions.
“Thanks to Congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall, we’re on track to protecting the Roan for generations to come,” the spot’s narrator says.
The ad features a family from Glenwood Springs, Ken Neubecker of the Colorado chapter of Trout Unlimited and Silt Mayor Pro Tem Tod Tibbetts.
A plan approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in June would open some of the 73,602 acres of federal land on and around the plateau to oil and gas development. The plan, issued after about six years of study, hearings and comments, projects 193 well pads and 1,570 wells over 20 years, including 13 pads and 210 wells on top.
There’s already drilling on private land on top of the plateau about 180 miles west of Denver.
Energy industry officials say the plan is the most restrictive ever issued by the BLM. It calls for drilling to be done in stages, limiting disturbance to 1 percent of the federal land at any time, and no disturbance of the surface in other areas.
But environmentalists, hunters, anglers and area residents say the energy development would endanger the millions of dollars communities reap from hunting, fishing and recreation on the Roan Plateau. Some critics of drilling on top say improving technology will allow companies to reach the gas from the bottom while others argue against any more development on federal land around the Roan because the bottom is crucial winter range for elk and mule deer.