Press Release: BLM Omits Town of Paonia Comment in Environmental Review For Lease Sale

By Patrick Dooling 2 years ago3 Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 29th, 2018

Media Contact:

BLM Omits Town of Paonia Comment in Environmental Review For Lease Sale
Bureau of Land Management Ignores Local Government’s Substantive Comments on  Environmental Review for Proposed Oil and Gas Leases In Community’s Watershed

Paonia, CO – At a Town of Paonia Trustees meeting Tuesday night, Town Administrator Ken Knight read an email he had received from Allen Crockett, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado River Valley Field Office’s lead on the proposed December oil and gas lease sale, stating that the BLM had omitted the town’s scoping letter from the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA).

Mr. Knight and several trustees expressed their concern regarding the omission, and have set a special meeting for September 10 at 6:30pm at Paonia Town Hall to approve a new comment in response to the Lease Sale EA.

The BLM is obligated by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to respond to any relevant comment submitted during the environmental review process. More importantly, the Town of Paonia is listed as a Coordinating Agency, meaning the BLM actively solicited the Town’s input during this process.

The Town of Paonia drafted its scoping letter during a series of open public meetings, which it scrambled to fit into the much-shortened public comment period. During these meetings, residents and Trustees alike raised concerns about the lease sale scoping notice. These concerns included potential health impacts to residents, impacts to Town revenue sources like hunting, recreation, and agritourism, traffic increases, and potential natural disasters arising from fracking-induced seismicity.

“The Town of Paonia feels it is extremely unfortunate that apparently its comments were not taken into account,” said Mr. Knight.

According to Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson, of Citizens for a Healthy Community, “it is clear from the contents of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment that the BLM either didn’t receive or simply ignored the scoping letter submitted by the Town of Paonia.”

In January of this year, the BLM was instructed by a Department of Interior Internal Memo to complete the environmental review process for lease sales in 6-months or less. This process had formerly taken over a year.

Alex Johnson, Executive Director of the Western Slope Conservation Center, said, “Omissions and errors like this are an inevitable consequence of the current administration’s undermining of the environmental review process by drastically decreasing the time allowance for public participation. The short timeline places unreasonable demands on the public, municipalities, and the BLM. Our communities have spent years engaging in BLM’s land management processes, and this mistake, along with the lease sale as a whole, undermines local trust in our federal agencies”

The public comment period on the Environmental Assessment on the December oil and gas lease sale ends on September 11. Citizens for a Healthy Community and the Western Slope Conservation Center are encouraging community members to attend the September 10th special meeting, as well as submit their own individual comments prior to the deadline.


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