401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

N. Fork parcels should be removed from BLM sale

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Dear Editor:

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our displeasure with the level of engagement from the Delta County Commissioners on issues related to the Bureau of Land Management's proposed December 2018 lease sale, and to ask that they request that the North Fork parcels be withdrawn.

The scoping letter our county commissioners sent completely failed to address the concerns that residents of Delta County have been raising for over a decade on oil and gas development in our headwaters and across our valley.

For years, Delta County residents have expressed strong opposition to the industrialization of the North Fork Valley through oil and gas development. Oil and gas development threatens our lives and livelihoods. Hydraulic fracturing requires pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated, poisonous water underground and threatens our water supply. The water used and produced during this process is forever removed from the water cycle. Given the trend towards decreased water availability in the North Fork of the Gunnison and beyond, this is completely unacceptable.

An unknown number of miles of pipelines crisscross our public lands, ranches, fields and streams. These pipelines are exempt from virtually all safety and reporting requirements, and could be leaking hazardous chemicals into the soil, water and air that make this valley so abundant. Non-exempt pipelines fail with alarming regularity in Colorado and across the country, but because the pipelines in Delta County are exempt from these regulations, we have no idea what the true incident rate is in our watershed.

Several of the proposed parcels abut existing roadless areas, and several others are on the shores of the Paonia Reservoir. The development of these parcels poses a significant threat to any recreationists who rely on these areas to hunt, fish, hike, backpack or ski. Highway 133 is the gateway to the North Fork -- drill rigs and frack tracks are not the first impression we want visitors to our valley to have. In addition to turning away visitors, the parcels threaten the safety of anyone downstream of the Paonia Reservoir, and anyone who travels along the West Elk Scenic Byway. This is one of the most geologically unstable regions in Colorado. Hydraulic fracturing has been shown to have a direct link to seismic activity, and there is no stipulation the BLM could attach to these leases to effectively mitigate the danger they pose to residents. They must be withdrawn.

Even if nothing goes wrong during the development and operation of the parcels offered in this lease, the use of the resulting natural gas will contribute directly to the ongoing aridification of the Western Slope -- threatening the future viability of our farms and ranches, and potentially our lives.

The North Fork Valley is the organic breadbasket of Colorado. The diverse, resilient, and sustainable economy we are building here is dependent on clean air, water, and soil. While the commissioners speak in their scoping letter of protecting the values that are important to us, they say nothing of how they expect the BLM to do so.

They also state in your scoping letter that they recognize the "importance and value of exploration and development of energy resources to the local and state economies," but they provide no proof for that statement. Study after study shows that oil and gas development, especially in rural counties is much more economic burden than boon.

We encourage the commissioners to think critically, and do their due diligence before offering support for an action that could negatively impact Delta County residents for decades to come. Do not simply rely on the unsubstantiated assertions of an industry that has spent millions of dollars to ensure their continued exemption from regulations that protect the values you profess to protect: public health, safety, and welfare and clean air, water and soil.

The Uncompahgre Field Office, in which we reside, is currently revising its Resource Management Plan. The scoping letter alludes to "stipulations" from this revision process being included, but how can we know those will be effective if the BLM hasn't completed its analysis?

We ask that the commissioners listen to us, their constituents, and request that the North Fork parcels be removed from this lease sale, as they are wholly inappropriate for this area.

Moriah Whoolilurie
North Fork Valley

(Editor's note: This letter was presented to the Delta County Commissioners Tuesday, Sept. 4, with the signatures of 242 North Fork Valley residents and constituents.)

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