What this means in practical terms, is that this proposal will have the same effect as zoning the majority of Delta County as heavy industrial for oil and gas operations. Based on the estimates in the draft RMP’s preferred alternative, at a minimum that means 1,271 wells, 2.9 million truck trips on single-lane rural roads, over 1200 miles of unregulated pipelines, and 6,255 oil and gas facilities such as compressor stations, separation tanks, and storage tanks in our watershed, close to farms, homes, and hunting grounds.
This type of industrialization will not only transform the landscape and the economy, it creates underground and surface risks. For example, did you know that rural gas gathering pipelines are unregulated? Operators are not required to construct them to federal pipeline safety standards to prevent leaks and failure. Operators are also not required to report any incremental failures along these pipelines that could contaminate soils and water, that does not require an evacuation. Regulated pipelines have failed; unregulated pipelines that keep the public in the dark create even greater risks.
According to Duke University Energy Initiative’s 2016 Report Colorado’s Piceance basin: Variation in the local public finance effects of oil and gas development, counties with a large percentage of federal public lands, like Delta County, are at risk of managing the road repair, increased law enforcement and administrative services that are associated with large-scale oil and gas development and operations.
In addition, did you know that neighboring Mesa County already gets an F from the American Lung Association for the number of high ozone days, most likely because of the large number of wells in the county and to its west (upwind)? High ozone not only contributes to poor air quality, but it stunts vegetative growth.
According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data, there are 2 oil and gas related spills a day in Colorado, 15% of which result in water contamination. Despite a regulatory framework around oil and gas operations that cannot protect the public from harm, the Delta County Commissioners support this level of industrial zoning for Delta County. Pipelines leak, spills happen, air gets polluted, and water gets contaminated. The Commissioners stated in their comment letter to the BLM that they support Alternatives C and D, which open 95% of BLM lands and minerals to oil and gas leasing, but prefer site-specific management.
Oil and gas operations at the scale envisioned by the draft RMP, which is by no means a cap on the potential activity due to hydraulic fracturing and multi-well drilling technologies, threatens all of this.
Too many news articles and programs blandly describe the RMP as a 20-year resource management plan that will manage BLM resources for multiple-use on about 675,800 acres of BLM administered public lands and 971,220 acres of federal subsurface mineral estate. While all true and factual, these types of statements often cause the average person to tune out because it appears to be a routine and boring administrative process. This type of language focuses on process, and not impact.
The County Commissioners should be protecting Delta County residents from backdoor zoning, which will only benefit a few at the expense of the many; not encouraging it.