- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

DE BEQUE, Colo. (AP) - Federal officials are rejecting suggestions they have already made up their minds about what to do with oil and gas leases on the environmentally sensitive Thompson Divide after Mesa County commissioners said they will boycott a meeting in De Beque on Tuesday because they are convinced the government has not been listening to their concerns.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman David Boyd said economic issues that prompted the boycott are included in five options that are being discussed at public hearings, including one option that commissioners say would hurt the Mesa County economy by calling for the possible cancellation of 18 oil and gas leases on Thompson Divide.

Commission Chairwoman Rose Pugliese said the commission already has participated in similar forums and the federal government isn’t listening, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported (https://tinyurl.com/patw9vt ). “They took our comments down, but clearly they did nothing with them,” Pugliese said.

Boyd said the government did an in-depth study of the possible impacts on local communities and came up with five alternatives that they studied, including the financial impacts.

“One of the five alternatives would cancel 18 leases and parts of seven other leases. We have not identified any preferred alternative,” Boyd said. He said a decision could come as early as next summer.



Other alternatives include taking no action on the leases or combining some of the proposals to come up with a better plan, Boyd said. Regulators need help from the public identifying any problems or coming up with better solutions, he said.

As proposed, SG Interests, a Houston-based oil and gas company, would give up 18 federal leases and other interests in the Thompson Divide area for leases covering about the same amount of land, 30,000 acres, in Delta and Mesa counties on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests.

Environmentalists including the Grand Junction Audubon Society and North Fork Valley’s Citizens for a Heathy Community group are concerned the swaps shift environmental issues rather than solving them.

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel, https://www.gjsentinel.com

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