Author: Pete Kolbenschlag

You Know the Drill – Newsweek

You Know the Drill – Newsweek.

Why is America lowballing itself?

“There is a lot of blame to go around when it comes to how much the American taxpayer is getting for all this drilling,” says Peter Kolbenschlag, an energy consultant with Mountain West Strategies in Paonia, Colo. “What we’re seeing right now is the result of a lot of special interests influencing fiscal policy in Washington.”

Americans may be surprised to learn that although leases on taxpayer-owned territories can fetch thousands of dollars an acre in the competitive bidding process, the starting bid for an annual lease to explore for 10 years is just $2 an acre. (That is not a typo.) Put it this way: America charges less for drilling on an acre of taxpayer-owned land for a decade than Starbucks charges for a cup of coffee.

Sierra Magazine » Busting Out of Boom & Bust – July/August 2013 – Sierra Magazine – Sierra Club

Busting Out of Boom & Bust – July/August 2013 – Sierra Magazine – Sierra Club.

…Pitched battles between communities, industry, and the federal government aren’t efficient approaches to public-lands management, Kolbenschlag says. But citizens have few options as long as leasing and drilling proceed under outdated plans and policies that fail to consider how Western communities and public-lands use have shifted.”Unless communities are invited to the tables,” Kolbenschlag says, “we’re going to see pushback at all levels.”


KVNF Community Radio » Fly-over Stresses Importance of Alternative Oil & Gas Plan | KVNF Public Radio

Fly-over Stresses Importance of Alternative Oil & Gas Plan | KVNF Public Radio.

Needle Rock

The fight to keep negative impacts of gas drilling out of the North Fork Valley got a boost as community members got a glimpse of the area from a higher plane. On Monday The Western Slope Conservation Center and Eco-Flight offered two tours of the North Fork Valley to graphically show the importance of the North Fork Valley Alternative Plan – a proposal created to provide a rallying point for residents concerned about oil and gas extraction on public lands.

When it was over, consultant and activist Pete Kolbenschlag talked about how an accident can impact more than the immediate area. He noted the recent leak of hydrocarbons in Parachute, Colorado.

“And when you look from the air at the landscape here,” he continued “and you see how small it is, and how connected it is, it’s hard to imagine how you could stick a highly industrial activity in the middle of all this agricultural land.”

View KVNF slide show, listen and read full article here 

North Fork Valley Protests BLM Oil and Gas Lease Sale



Local Government, Hundreds of Citizens, Wineries, Farmers, Businesses, Sportsmen Organizations, and Conservation Groups all file protests over North Fork oil and gas lease sale


PAONIA-Today a diverse and substantial number of protests were submitted to the Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Office over the North Fork Valley oil and gas lease sale, scheduled for February 14, 2013.


Protests argue that the BLM must withdraw the North Fork parcels from this sale; that the agency has failed in its legal obligation to ensure it has updated management in place that adequately considers current economies, resources, and uses of the public lands at stake in this federal agency decision.


The Paonia Town Council approved a protest last week:


“This community warrants having all the impacts noted and addressed before such leasing is proposed.  The Town is requesting that every aforementioned parcel proposed for lease in the North Fork valley be removed from the sale. … The Town is not against mineral extraction as an industry, it does however oppose these parcels for the above-stated reasons.  …The North Fork valley is truly a special place for many people.  Our citizens deserve legislation that ‘protects their land, water, air, and economic viabilities of their-livelihood and assets.”


The Gunnison Board of County Commissioners also sent a ‘letter of objection’ that requests BLM:


“…not proceed with the proposed February 14, 2013 Oil and Gas Lease Sale unless and until further review of the impacts associated with the parcels be evaluated, reconsidered, and mitigated.”


The North Fork’s BLM lands are intermixed with the private, productive agricultural lands of the valley, where families live, and that will be directly impacted by traffic and development on rural roads and adjacent lands.  The community nature of these public lands, uses never fully considered by the BLM, has driven this small community to action.  Protests were submitted or joined by hundreds of local residents, with one community protest gathering over 600 signers.


“It’s a simple and sensible position: Helen Hankins, the BLM state director, should not push through new leases that would permit new industrial use under a plan from 25 years ago,” said Pete Kolbenschlag with Mountain West Strategies, a Paonia-based strategic consulting firm, who helped gather support on the community protest. “The bottom line is the BLM has not done the work required, the North Fork deserves a plan that protects the resources in place here today.”


The plan the BLM is relying on to permit the sale of these highly utilized public lands was finalized in 1989.  The majority of the analysis and studies that plan relied upon were completed in the early and mid-1980s.   Protests and objections contend this is a backward approach and that the law requires that the BLM update its analysis and consider new information first, before it commits the lands to highly impactful industrial development.


Agricultural groups like the Valley Organic Growers Association, the state’s largest such organization; Slow Food Western Slope; and, the West Elk Winery Association—made up of twelve area wineries; all filed protests.  As did several local irrigators such as the Terror Ditch and Reservoir Company.


“[The] vineyards and wineries surrounding Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Crawford have been steadfastly crafting a sustainable, locally-based industry relying on premium quality wine crafted from premium quality grapes, diverse, nearby recreational opportunities set amid sweeping views, and a pastoral, bucolic local ambience,” the Winery Association protest reads.  “The proposed lease sale threatens our industry at its very roots, as several of the Protested Parcels are located within the boundaries … while others are located close by.”


The North Fork is Colorado’s only rural winegrowing region as recognized by the federal government.  The area also includes the highest concentration of organic farms and orchards in the state and is gaining a reputation as “An American Provenance” for its compact towns with surrounding small family-scale farms and wineries.


These wineries, farms and other agricultural businesses directly impacted by this sale are an important part of the local economy.  With its high-quality rural ambience, small-scale family farms, cottage industries, local markets, and farm-to-table restaurants the North Fork is a growing agritourism destination. Area businesses fear that all this could be significantly impacted by the agency’s leasing of these lands that would allow oil and gas drilling under a nearly 30-year-old analysis.   The North Fork Valley Tourism and Lodging Association (made up of 26 local tourism, recreation and guest-oriented businesses) filed protest, arguing that:


“The most recent Environmental Assessment acknowledges that the NFV has changed dramatically since 1989, when the BLM approved the out-of-date UFO RMP.   Accordingly the BLM must now comply with its multiple-use mandate, which requires “periodic adjustments in use to conform with changing needs and conditions”, and reevaluate whether oil and gas activity is appropriate for the North Fork Valley.”


Both visitors and residents are attracted to the North Fork’s rural culture.  And over a dozen local realtors also filed a protest.  Both sets of protests—tourism businesses and the realtors—highlight factors that have changed since the 1980s.  The protests assert that the BLM must first consider these changed circumstances and this new information in a land use plan but that it has not.  Therefore these lease parcels must be withdrawn.


Of course it is not only the impacts to the human environment that is drawing concern.  Oil and gas development on the fragile soils and among the water sources and riparian areas of the valley could cause significant environment harm should spills or storms (neither infrequent occurrences) happen at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Impacts to wildlife, including elk and deer, and endangered and sensitive species, have the potential to be significant.  Air quality is another significant issue the BLM all but admits it has failed to properly consider, before it decides to lease the lands anyways.


Trout Unlimited filed a protest due to important populations of Greenback and Colorado River Cutthroat Trout populations in streams that could be affected by development under this decades-old plan.  Both the Colorado Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation filed a protest over concerns about impacts to wildlife habitat and migration routes.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—the BLM’s own sister agency—even recommended consultation prior to leasing, which the BLM state office and director have ignored.


Conservation groups also filed protests raising the above issues, including the Hotchkiss-based Citizens for a Healthy Community and Western Environmental Law Center and another from Colorado groups led by The Conservation Center (of Delta County) and High Country Citizens Alliance (in Gunnison County).


“The North Fork Valley of Colorado is a unique and valuable area, that deserves unique attention,” said Sarah Sauter with The Conservation Center, a local community group active in the valley since 1977.   “The 1989 plan simply does not consider what exists here today: our water sources, our homes, our businesses and farms.  We deserve better and we intend to work with the BLM to get it.”


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Oil and Gas Leases Create Conflicts for FEMA « Global Warming « – Youth United for Climate Progress

As the shale gas boom has brought oil and gas drilling closer and closer to home for many Americans, banking and real estate experts have found that drilling may pose significant risks involving property values, homeowners, and mortgage lenders.

via Oil and Gas Leases Create Conflicts for FEMA « Global Warming « – Youth United for Climate Progress.

Craig Daily Press » Trappers Lake reaps benefits of a 2002 fire

It must have been a sight to behold.

Colorado undoubtedly had seen bigger wildfires, even bigger blazes during that very summer of 2002 alone. But the imposing Big Fish fire was all the more extraordinary, set against the dramatic backdrop of Trappers Lake and the striking Flat Tops Wilderness surrounding it.

All told, 17,000 acres in the so-called “Cradle of Wilderness” were scorched by a lightning strike while firefighting crews watched the pristine valley go up in flames.

But given its eminent role in the genesis of the Wilderness Act of 1964, Trappers Lake demanded nothing less.

“We consider the fire a blessing,” said Holly King, owner of nearby Trappers Lake Lodge since 2005. “It put us 10 years ahead of the beetle kill and the big fires of 2012. It’s just something different to look at.”

Read the full story at:

Craig Daily Press / Trappers Lake reaps benefits of a 2002 fire.

Business Week » The Fight Over Fracking in Colorado’s North Fork Valley

Colorado’s North Fork Valley has become a leader in sustainable agriculture and home to the largest concentration of organic farms in the Rocky Mountains.

On Dec. 8, the Bureau of Land Management announced that 30,000 acres in 22 parcels along the North Fork were being nominated for oil and gas development. That meant fracking.

Read the full story at:

The Fight Over Fracking in Colorado’s North Fork Valley – Businessweek.

Photo essay: Fracking Threatens the American Provence

Grand Junction Sentinel » Conservation groups victorious in Roan drilling lawsuit

A federal judge has ruled in favor of environmental groups in their lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to lease more than 50,000 acres on the Roan Plateau outside Rifle for oil and gas development.

In a 38-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that the agency failed to adequately address an alternative that would have prevented drilling on the plateau top. It also failed to sufficiently consider cumulative air quality impacts in conjunction with anticipated development on surrounding private land, or to adequately address ozone impacts.

Read the full story at:

Conservation groups victorious in Roan drilling lawsuit 

Salt Lake Tribune » Closed rebellion

Closed rebellion-Counties hide oil shale meeting

If various officials in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming don’t like the Obama administration’s decision to slow the rush toward potentially disastrous attempts to turn rocks and sand into fuel — and many of them don’t — they have as much right as anyone else to just say so.

It must have been a lot more fun, though, for commissioners from Uintah, Carbon and Duchesne counties to organize a clandestine gathering for themselves, some counterparts from Colorado and Wyoming, a couple of state officials and lobbyists from a so-far imaginary industry that claims to know how to turn the region’s oil shale into gasoline at a competitive price. All the better to style themselves as the oppressed as they hammered out their resolutions of objection.

 By acting this way, officials who are clearly salivating over the very thin prospect of an oil shale boom succeed only in undermining their own legal, political and ethical case.
Read the full editorial at:

Closed rebellion 

ThinkProgress » Members Who Supported Massive Giveaway To Big Oil Have Received $38.6 Million From The Industry

From ThinkProgress-

The House of Representatives, which already holds the title of the most anti-environment House ever, today added another mark to the list — the Domestic Energy Production Act, H.R. 4480. The act is specifically designed to increase oil and gas development, with measures that block safeguards from smog and pollution and mandate drilling on public lands. The House Republicans passed this pollution and plunder energy package overrun by oil and gas industry interests, 248 to 163. This breakdown includes 229 Republicans and 19 Democratic members.  A ThinkProgress analysis of Center for Responsive Politics data shows how that oil and gas money overwhelmingly went to the votes for gutting safeguards from air pollution, drilling regulations and public lands protections

Read the whole story here:

Members Who Supported Massive Giveaway To Big Oil Have Received $38.6 Million From The Industry