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House GOP Newsletter  
December 1, 2014  Like

♦A message from Rep. Rankin   ♦House GOP Press Releases 

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Roan Plateau settlement should be a model for future government negotiations

By Representative Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale)

I represent House District 57, which includes an area in Garfield County known as the Roan Plateau. Last month, Governor Hickenlooper, along with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, both Colorado Senators and Congressman Tipton, along with other government officials, and representatives from both environmental groups and the energy industry held a press conference to announce that a settlement had been reached on the Roan Plateau energy development lawsuit.

The Roan Plateau is comprised of about 73,600 acres of public lands, with about 35,000 located on top of the plateau and the rest below the rim. The area is known for its diverse ecological environment, scenic views, recreational activity and high natural gas concentrations. A federal Bureau of Land Management fact sheet estimates 4.2 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas under the top of the plateau and 4.7 TCF under the lands below the rim. In 2008, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctioned mineral leases to energy companies and received nearly $114 million in mineral lease revenue. However, shortly afterwards several environmentalist organizations filed a lawsuit to prevent any energy development.  

It may be true that drilling and development of natural gas would have had little impact on the natural environment of the Roan Plateau. Advancements in drilling technology allow energy companies to drill numerous wells from a single well head, and then reclaim the ground to erase any drilling evidence. But this lawsuit represented a difference of opinion that could have left the local governments responsible for refunding the mineral leases and frozen any future energy development.

Fortunately, after many years of impasse, the Governor's staff and our Congressional delegation worked diligently with the BLM, representatives from the environmentalist organizations, and the energy companies to help reach a settlement. Our Governor, his staff and the other elected officials deserve credit for helping this settlement come to fruition.

Specifically the settlement will permit drilling on the plateau's lower basin, but will cancel most leases on the plateau's upper portion. The revenue associated with the canceled leases must be refunded to the purchaser.  It was important to the local governments that they be held harmless from this refund's impact.  The original funds from the lease purchase were deposited in a fund that was later swept into the general fund so that the local governments never actually received any distribution from the lease auction.  I worked with the Governor's budget office to resolve this concern and the budget request for this year includes a provision that will hold local governments harmless from impacts.

I'm of course pleased to see more natural gas development on public lands that will boost our local economy and bring good jobs to this region of Colorado.  I'm hopeful that similar future conflicts can be resolved outside of the courts, but the Roan Plateau lawsuit is not likely to be the last time litigation will stymie energy production. While the lawsuit might have been unnecessary, the leadership from our government officials and the cooperation from the parties involved should be a model for moving forward and demonstrates how local governments can successfully work with state and federal governments.

Sincerely, 

Bob Rankin 

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