White River National Forest Oil & Natural Gas Plan Fails to Find Balance

February 10, 2015

Trade associations file formal objection citing long history of coexistence

(DENVER) – Today, Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association (WSCOGA) and Public Lands Advocacy filed a formal objection to the U.S. Forest Service’s draft decision on the White River National Forest Oil and Gas Leasing Plan that closes the entire Thompson Divide Area to future oil and natural gas leasing. The plan, marred by political interference and superficial analysis, fails to successfully balance responsible energy development with conservation and ignores the broad economic needs of all local communities, not just favored segments of society.

The plan, announced on December 9th,  is based on the flawed presumption that oil and natural gas development is incompatible with agriculture, recreation, outfitting, wildlife and protection of other natural resources by ignoring nearly 60 years of oil and natural gas history in the area that proves otherwise. While failing to analyze the actual oil and natural gas potential in the area, particularly of the Mancos and Niobrara formations, the Forest Service blithely removes nearly 1.3 million acres from oil and natural gas leasing and imposes blanket No Surface Occupancy (NSO), the most severe restriction, on most of the little that remains available for leasing.

“We’ve constantly heard from the Administration and its apologists that the reason production is down relatively on public lands as the rest of the country booms is because new shale plays are predominantly on private lands,” said Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance’s vice president of government and public affairs. “We’ve long pointed out the fallacy of that excuse, and western Colorado provides another example. In up-and-coming formations on public lands such as the Mancos shale, federal agencies are preventing the exploration and technical innovation that were necessary to jump-start other now-prolific shale plays. Federal policies like this Forest Service Plan continue the strategy of strangling promising new shale plays at birth.”

"The Mancos and Niobrara shales are the future of oil and natural gas development on the West Slope and are important to our economy,” said David Ludlam, WSCOGA executive director.  “Taking away public access to these significant shale gas resources is a decision that must not be taken lightly and its impacts to local governments must be fully disclosed. We believe this objection is the first step in making sure the multiple-use mission of the Forest Service isn't forgotten." 

“It is unacceptable that the Forest Service is abdicating its responsibility as a federal land manager to ensure that a balance of uses is permitted in the White River National Forest that meets the needs of local communities,” said Claire Moseley, executive director of Public Lands Advocacy.  “The agency’s decision to effectively cripple future exploration and development activities will severely diminish the continued economic growth in the region derived from jobs, taxes and spending associated with responsible oil and gas development.”

The three groups are calling on the Forest Service to withdraw the plan and complete the comprehensive analysis required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

More information and the full objection including are available at http://www.westernenergyalliance.org/WRNF-Objection.

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About the Associations

Western Energy Alliance, founded in 1974 as the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, is a non-profit trade association representing 450 companies engaged in all aspects of environmentally responsible exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the West. More information about Western Energy Alliance is available at www.westernenergyalliance.org.

The West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s mission is to foster and promote the beneficial, efficient, responsible and environmentally sound development, production and use of Western Colorado oil and natural gas. The membership of West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association is committed to enhancing oil and gas production in Western Colorado while also enhancing the communities where we work, live and raise our families.

Public Lands Advocacy is a not for profit association whose mission is to promote responsible oil and gas exploration and development on public lands.