Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement on today’s Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) announcement that it will suspend several oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area until April 1, 2014. Suspending the leases prevents any development activity, pauses the 10-year deadline private leaseholders have to develop their leases, and allows for additional public input and environmental analysis. More information on the BLM decision can be found here.
“While I know many communities in the Thompson Divide area had hoped the leases would expire this May, I am pleased to see that BLM has recognized the importance of the ongoing community dialog over future development. The suspension decision underscores the need to continue the discussions on the ground and pass the bill we introduced last month. Passage of that bill, coupled with a negotiated agreement on the existing leases, will give much-needed certainty to these communities and the local businesses that depend on the Thompson Divide for their livelihood. We’ll continue to engage with all stakeholders and work to move the bill forward as quickly as possible in the Senate.”
Last month, Bennet introduced the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, which would withdraw unleased public minerals in the area from future oil and gas development while also preserving existing private property rights for current leaseholders. It also creates an opportunity for existing leases to be retired should they be donated or sold by willing owners. The bill was drafted at the request of local governments and following a series of conversations Bennet held with leaseholders, elected officials, and community leaders.