GJ Sentinel – Big Delta acreage eyed for oil and gas leasing

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Big Delta acreage eyed for oil and gas leasing

By Dennis Webb

Some Delta County residents are doing a double-take over a Bureau of Land Management announcement that 22 parcels covering 30,000 acres in the Paonia, Somerset, Hotchkiss and Crawford areas have been nominated for oil and gas leasing.

The leases may be offered at the Colorado BLM’s Aug. 9 lease sale.

Bruce Bertram, the county’s local government designee on oil and gas matters, said the amount of land is surprising.

“It’s a fairly large block of acreage,” he said.

Lorie Molitor, Gas Committee chairwoman of the local conservation group NWCC, said she was caught off guard by the effort to lease areas she thought didn’t hold much potential.

Nominators of lease parcels aren’t made public prior to auctions. Speculation turned Thursday to three companies with at least some interests in nearby areas as possibly being behind the nominations.

Representatives for two of them — Gunnison Energy and Fram Operating LLC — said their companies weren’t the nominators. The third company, SG Interests Inc., could not be reached for comment.

Barb Sharrow, Uncompahgre Field Office manager, said she would guess the Somerset-area leases target the Mesaverde sandstone formation. That’s the formation from which extensive natural gas has been produced in western Garfield County.

For the remaining acreage, the likely target might be the Mancos shale or Dakota sandstone formations, Sharrow said. Companies including Fram have had some initial success exploring for oil and gas there.

The nominated parcels hadn’t previously been nominated at least over the past seven years, but almost all of the remaining acreage managed by the field office has been leased, Sharrow said.

BLM spokeswoman Shannon Borders said the agency received “quite a few calls” Thursday after announcing the lease nominations Wednesday. Some callers wanted clarification on the location of the parcels, and the BLM plans to post more detailed maps to its website.

The BLM is seeking public comments as it does an environmental assessment.

“We have to look at it and see if there’s any place in there that should be immediately questioned in terms of being leased,” Molitor said.

Comments are due Jan. 9. Information may be found at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Information/nepa/ufo.html.

Said Bertram, “There’s probably going to be a fair amount of discussion and probably some heavy-duty comments, I imagine.”

About 900 of the nominated acres are privately owned, with federally owned mineral rights. Bertram said some of that acreage is the county’s closed North Fork landfill.

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