Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that as oil and gas leasing on public lands increased in 2012, the number of protested leases declined.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Colorado. It’s just the opposite under Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Helen Hankins. In her state, lease protests have risen sharply and the number of developed leases declined.
Hankins has disregarded DOI’s leasing reforms and instead decided to auction drilling leases in places like the North Fork Valley, right next to farms and wineries, and next to Dinosaur National Monument. Her insistence on giving oil and gas companies whatever they ask for has created more red tape for industry, upset local communities, and, if the leases go through, could jeopardize local economies.
Some facts about Hankins’ tenure as Colorado’s BLM Director:
• According to The Wilderness Society’s report, Making the Grade, in Colorado, 94 percent of parcels in lease sale notices were protested in CY 2012. The national average for protested leases was 12 percent, and no other western state exceeded 25 percent.
• Dir. Hankins refuses to listen to the local community in North Fork. Hankins is again planning to lease over 20,000 acres, relying on a resource management plan written in 1989, decades before the organic farms and vineyards that now drive the region’s economy were in place.
• Dir. Hankins has repeatedly refused to use Master Leasing Plans (MLP), which allow for landscape-level analysis to determine drilling’s effects on air, water, land and wildlife. In South Park, Dir. Hankins has refused to conduct an MLP, despite the fact that Denver’s and Aurora ‘s watersheds are in close proximity to the potential lease sites.