The Bureau of Land Management expects to release its preferred alternative on an environmental review of 65 White River National Forest oil and gas leases within a couple of weeks, agency spokesman David Boyd said Tuesday.
The release of that alternative and an accompanying environmental impact statement would mean the agency won’t be granting an energy industry request to reopen the review for further public comment and consider a new, much-higher estimate of the size of the Mancos shale natural gas resource in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin.
Boyd said he can’t comment on what’s in the preferred alternative. However, the agency previously has said it expected the alternative to include canceling 25 leases in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs, which a coalition has been seeking to protect from drilling.
The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that the Mancos shale in the Piceance Basin contains 66 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, 40 times more than its previous estimate. The energy industry and others including U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, say the BLM needs to consider that information as it considers canceling leases likely to contain valuable stores of gas.