Colorado’s Pristine Roan Plateau Threatened By Drilling Surge
WASHINGTON – As Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter prepares to take a stand on federal plans to allow thousands of oil and gas wells on Colorado’s Roan Plateau and surrounding land, an investigation by Environmental Working Group (EWG) finds that drilling permits in the area have already more than doubled since 2004.
A first-ever comprehensive analysis of drilling data on federal and private land by EWG found that the number of wells permitted within the Bureau of Land Management’s 127,000-acre Roan Plateau Planning Area increased from 980 in 2004 to 2,094 in January 2007. The Planning Area includes the Plateau, a spectacular wilderness, sportsman’s paradise and home to many important species.
“The Roan Plateau Planning Area has been extensively drilled already. If we are serious about a balanced energy policy it is time to call the Plateau off-limits to further exploitation,” said Dusty Horwitt, Senior Analyst with the Environmental Working Group.
EWG’s analysis includes exclusive Google satellite maps with well locations that illustrate the dramatic surge of drilling permits in the region.
“Drilling on the Roan Plateau would not only damage one of Colorado’s great treasures, but would produce only a small amount of energy,” added Horwitt. “We could save at least as much energy through measures as simple and painless as requiring more energy efficient ceiling fans.”
In spite of this surge of drilling, the BLM is poised to implement a management plan that would sacrifice many of the remaining undeveloped lands atop the Plateau. The drilling would provide a small amount of energy easily rendered unnecessary through modest conservation efforts. The BLM’s plan for oil and gas drilling would also increase impacts at the base of the Plateau’s 2,000-foot escarpment.
Over the last 20 years, oil and gas drilling has steadily encroached on the Plateau, increasing by more than 20-fold. As of 1987, just 84 wells had been permitted in the Planning Area. Today, there are more than 2,000. Many of the well permits over the past 20 years have been issued on private land (EWG 2007) and have thus been beyond the reach of the BLMs power to manage drilling. The cumulative impact from this explosion of drilling, however, makes protecting public lands such as the Roan Plateau even more of a priority.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.