WELC Blog: A Few Good Weeks in Colorado’s Fracking War

The year isn’t even two months old, yet we’ve already had some sweet wins on the fracking and oil and natural gas onslaught in Colorado! 

First, just last week, on February 13, we cracked open the far too cozy relationship between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which leases out public lands for oil and gas drilling, and the oil and natural gas industry itself. A U.S. District Court in Colorado held in our favor on a common sense notion: BLM cannot keep secret from the public the identity of corporate interests seeking to lease, frack, and drill resources on our public lands. 

Second, a week earlier, on February 7th, BLM cancelled the 12,000-acre Tres Rios lease sale that was scheduled for February 14th. BLM was planning to lease for oil and gas drilling public lands located near Durango, Colorado, despite widespread opposition, including formal protests that we had filed on behalf of our local partners San Juan Citizens Alliance and others. 

And, third, on February 6th, we beat back an attempt by BLM to sell 20,000 acres of oil and gas leases surrounding Colorado’s North Fork Valley. Through our advocacy last year with our grassroots partner, Citizens for a Healthy Community, we had already whittled that sale down from 30,000 acres, but our campaign in this area has always been about fully protecting the Valley’s rich heritage of organic farming, vineyards, and ranching.

However, these fights are far from over. Both the Tres Rios and North Fork Valley drilling proposals will likely again rear their heads in the near future. And there are serious fights ahead to make sure that BLM’s management plans for these public lands are fully responsive to community concerns, and provide meaningful and robust protections for water, wildlife, and local economies, or, where such protections aren’t possible, that fracking or drilling is simply not permitted, period. Moreover, while we’ve helped crack the far too cozy relationship between BLM and the oil and gas industry, it’s going to take strong, persistent advocacy on our part to truly level the playing field with industry, such that we can have real confidence in BLM’s decisions. 

We also know that these fights were sparked in the first place by an ‘all-of-the-above’ national energy strategy that puts the West’s iconic wildlands and communities at risk, keeps us hooked on fossil fuels to the detriment of our climate, and doesn’t do nearly enough to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy from the sun and wind. 

So, while we’re pleased to celebrate these wins, we also know a simple truth: there’s good, hard work still to do in the years ahead before the West’s wildlands and communities are no longer threatened by ill-advised energy strategies and we can truly celebrate victory.

(Photo by Peter Marcus/The Colorado Statesman)

Blog Profile

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich

Erik was appointed Executive Director in 2012. He joined WELC as an attorney in 2003 and has worked to safeguard our climate from dirty fossil fuels, promote our transition to the efficient use of carbon free, renewable energy, and protect the American West’s rivers and wildlands. Before taking over the reins, Erik served as both the director of the Southwest office (Taos, N.M.) and of WELC's Climate & Energy Program. Prior to joining WELC, he worked for The Wilderness Society as an attorney on public lands issues. Erik is a graduate of Cornell University with a B.S. in Natural Resources, and earned his law degree and an Environmental and Natural Resources Law Certificate from the University of Oregon School of Law. Erik works from our Southwest Office, 575-751-0351 x 137.

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This blog explores inside information from WELC's smart, dedicated attorneys, scientists and policy experts who have committed their lives to defending the American West. Our experts take their unique knowledge, mix it with long hours of reflection in the saddle of a bicycle, hiking a long & winding trail, paddling a river, or skiing the mountains and share with you their insights and perspectives. We hope you enjoy the results!