County Commissioners support BLM public land lease sales

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- The Bureau of Land Management is looking at proposals to lease public lands in Mesa and Garfield counties to oil and gas companies.

As the deadline for public comment draws closer, Mesa County commissioners and environmental groups are butting heads.

The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comment until June 9, before officials lease 27,000 acres of Mesa and Garfield counties public land to oil and gas companies.

"The fossil fuels are continually under attack," said Mesa County Commissioner for District 1, John Justman. "Mesa County has lot of stake in how this works or doesn't work. I wish they could be a less bureaucratic as they have in the past.”

The Mesa County commissioners released a letter they sent to BLM which read in part:

"Oil and gas resource development in the region provides important economic benefits and impacts within Mesa County. Mesa County is the host community for Northwest Colorado’s oil and gas workforce, and many of its vendors, suppliers and service companies."

The letter reads that a majority of tax revenue comes from this industry. To read the full letter, click on the link on the right side of this screen.

“Eight of our 10 largest property tax payers are in the oil and gas industry. That has declined the last few years, and we'd like to see that come back,” said Commissioner Justman.

Members of the Western Colorado Congress gave their rebuttal in hopes the BLM would rethink this move.

Susan Justice, a long-time Colorado resident, gave the statement below:

"Oil and gas drilling has a huge impact. Already locally I've experienced air that was heavy and difficult to breathe, it had bad taste and coated my tongue...

...It degrades the property values of anyone living nearby, as well as outdoor recreation and agriculture. It puts our water and watershed at risk. The Continental Divide gives water to the whole South Western Region, which is suppose to get to the Gulf. You just don't mix oil and water. (sic)”

In a statement, Don Lumbardy wrote:

“I'm disappointed that I haven't seen county commissioners look at or find other types of industry. It seems they only ever look at oil and gas. They support this industry which is only going to be temporary, bringing temporary jobs.

This is desert country and unless the BLM makes them clean up, which there is a poor track record of, many times they scar up the public land. It's too easy for them to just pack up and leave. I want to see an enforcement of reclamation.

They don't clean up unless the public pressures the BLM, but the BLM should do their job without being pressured. The BLM should see to it that it's done.

County Commissioners always seem to say OK (to oil and gas) and don't seem to pursue anything else that is more stable. The oil and gas industry has always been boom and bust. (sic)”

Commissioner Justman said that Colorado already has a strict rule on the industry. Though he thinks there’s room for green energy in the future, he said that transition is still a long time from now.

“Will there be accidents? Yes. There are accidents every day on the highway. Do we close the highways down and say sorry no more driving, it's dangerous? We don't do that. Everything inherently has some risk to it,” Commissioner Justman said.

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