Aspen City Council is poised to send a letter to Washington, D.C. supporting the efforts of a local coalition seeking to protect the Thompson Divide area from natural gas drilling.
Council had previously voiced its support for Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s proposed Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, which would remove the possibility of drilling on some of the land west of Carbondale. The city has finalized a letter to Bennet, and will consider final approval of the document at today’s 5 p.m. meeting.
The letter mentions the “broad-based group” of ranchers, farmers, sportsmen and local governments that have signed on to support the efforts of the Thompson Divide Coalition to protect the land.
On the other side are gas drilling companies that hold leases to develop the resources on public land underneath the Thompson Divide. At least one of those companies — Houston-based SG Interests — is taking steps to move forward with drilling.
“The Thompson Divide area is defined by abundant wildlife and wildlife habitat; essential watersheds, and historic grazing rights for local ranches that provide significant economic, agricultural and social values to this small region of the state. We are concerned that the area’s clean water, rural and agricultural heritage, and recreational and sporting activities could be negatively impacted by oil and gas development,” the letter says.
The letter notes that Bennet’s bill does not guarantee that existing leases will not be developed. While the bill would offer a process for companies holding those leases to trade or retire them, the main thrust of the legislation would be to remove unleased public land in Thompson Divide from future drilling consideration.
“We recognize that the proposed legislation does not affect existing uses or property rights, including current natural gas leases, and request that you introduce the bill during this session in order to move this effort forward,” says the letter, signed by Mayor Mick Ireland.
Bennet is seeking input on the draft bill and has posted it to his website at www.bennet.senate.gov/thompsondivide .