Conservation groups protested a Trump administration plan today that would expand federal fossil-fuel development in southwestern Colorado, threatening climate, wildlife and recreation. The Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan would allow increased fracking, which will threaten organic agriculture and endangered species and undermine the state’s new climate law.
“This proposed plan is antithetical to everything the community in the North Fork Valley and surrounding area has worked towards for decades,” said Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “Our community has worked to transition away from reliance on a single extractive industry to a diverse, resilient, and sustainable economy based on organic agriculture, recreation, tourism, and creative arts. This proposed plan is a slap in the face to 42,000 people who live here, recreate here, or eat produce grown here that commented throughout this revision process requesting BLM consider a ‘no-leasing’ alternative to protect our health and safety, and the unique agricultural characteristics of this valley.”
The groups’ formal protest, filed with the Bureau of Land Management, says BLM’s environmental analysis violated several federal laws by failing to consider how more oil and gas development could harm organic agriculture, wildlife, the climate and endangered species. Endangered wildlife at risk include the Colorado pikeminnow and Gunnison sage grouse.
“BLM keeps barreling headlong into climate and environmental disruption despite the fact that the state of Colorado and its citizens have called a halt to reckless and damaging fossil fuel extraction,” said Laura King, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We will continue to resist this unwise plan in every way we can.”
In June BLM announced a land-management plan that had not previously been released, subverting public notice and comment periods required under federal law. Despite community concerns about harm to agriculture and recreation, BLM rejected a plan to significantly curb fossil-fuel development and refused to analyze an alternative option that would prohibit new oil, gas and coal leases.
“This plan is climate corruption. It sacrifices everything else to the single, destructive goal of expanding fossil-fuel development,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Nearly a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution comes from fossil-fuel extraction on public lands. We can’t confront climate change without ending oil and gas development on public lands.”
The Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan’s oil and gas production forecast would increase climate pollution by more than 2,300 percent by 2029. Colorado’s new law calls for cutting greenhouse gas pollution by 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. The conservation groups are asking BLM to redo its environmental impact statement and support a plan that recommends no new leasing.
“This new plan is a big frack you to Colorado’s climate goals. Clearly, the Trump administration couldn’t care less about what states want,” said Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “I’m certain that we’ll be turning to the courts to once again hold the line on the climate crisis.”
The Uncompahgre plan allocates 872,000 acres to oil and gas and 371,000 acres to coal development, but the environmental impact analysis fails to tally direct and indirect climate pollution that would result from fossil fuel production. It follows a draft plan released by the Trump administration in June for eastern Colorado that would triple annual greenhouse gas pollution from oil and gas development by 2037. These plans will dictate public-land management in Colorado for decades.
“The state of Colorado is making a concerted effort to curb our damaging, irreversible impact on the planet while the president and his administration shirk their duties. The Trump administration is hell-bent on reversing the good work we are doing in Colorado to protect our environment and public health through this fossil-fuel expansion plan,” said Jim Alexee, director of the Sierra Club’s Colorado chapter. “Our planet and health cannot afford this kind of damage to our climate.”
The plan covers about 675,000 acres of public land and almost a million acres of federal minerals in southwestern Colorado. The region includes the North Fork Valley and Telluride, areas that support exceptional outdoor recreation and Colorado’s largest concentration of organic agriculture. The area also includes numerous threatened and endangered species, including Colorado pikeminnows, razorback suckers, greenback cutthroat trout and Gunnison sage grouse.
Federal fossil-fuel production causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a federal fossil-fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.
Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from already-leased fossil fuels on federal lands, if fully developed, would essentially exhaust the U.S. carbon budget for a 1.5 degree Celsius target.
Existing laws give Congress and presidents the authority to end new federal fossil-fuel leasing. Hundreds of organizations have already petitioned the federal government to end new onshore and offshore leasing.
PHOTO: Public lands in the Uncompahgre Field Office, southwestern Colorado. Photo credit: Ecoflight. Image is available for media use.