Crestone Eagle, March 2008:
Citizens call for full Environmental
Impact Statement at Fish & Wildlife’s meeting on Lexam’s drilling
Deadline for comments on Draft Environmental Assessment
is March 3
by Ceal Smith
75 citizens attended a public meeting held by U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the Baca Grande Property Owners
Association (POA) on February 12. Citizens were unanimous
in their call that USFWS conduct a full Environmental Impact
Statement on Lexam Exploration’s proposal to drill two
test wells in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.
The USFWS released its draft environmental assessment for
a 45-day public review process that ends March 3. Under the
National Environmental Policy Act rules, the EA is required
to analyze the potential impacts of Lexam Explorations’
proposal on the environment, public safety and the economy.
Following public review, USFWS District Manager Stephen Guertin,
in Denver, will decide weather or not a more comprehensive
Environmental Impact Statement will be conducted.
The EA introduces 37 mitigation measures that USFWS is proposing
to lessen the impacts of Lexam’s drilling activities.
These standards and measures include on-site archaeological
monitoring, no drilling during the May-July spring migration
season, 3,000’ deep double casing, use of a closed-loop
system and monitoring of nearby wells to protect water resources,
buffer zones around sensitive species habitat, dust mitigation
measures, $1 million liability insurance and others. These
measures go beyond what is normally required in gas and oil
development in Colorado; however, for many they are still
not good enough.
Dozens of citizens spoke during the 4-hour public meeting
facilitated by a USFWS District office representative and
Refuge Manager Mike Blenden. Lexam representatives were also
present at the meeting.
Citizens expressed a multitude of concerns that the draft
EA failed to adequately address the significance of impacts
and that the standards and measures did not ensure that these
impacts be minimized. Many felt that the EA ignored the unique
qualities of the area.
There were concerns that public health and safety issues
such as increased traffic on T-road were not adequately addressed.
Many were concerned that the unique Sense of Place values
in the area, such as quietude, protection of the Class I air
shed, and economic and social impacts on the area’s
24 retreat centers were ignored. Potential geohazards such
as induced earthquakes and blowouts, threats to the Closed
Basin aquifer, noise and light concerns, impacts on endangered
species, elk and other wildlife, a lack of studies to support
the EA conclusions and the impact of drilling on the nearby
Great Sand Dunes National Park were not adequately addressed.
Refuge Manager Mike Blenden was asked why USFWS didn’t
take purchase of the mineral interests more seriously even
when lack of funds was not in place when legislation was passed
to purchase the Baca to expand the Great Sand Dunes National
Park. If the government purchased the mineral rights it could
prevent Lexam or anyone else from drilling on the refuge.
The consensus among speakers during the meeting was that
an environmental impact statement is needed. This process
could take several years to complete according to project
leader Mike Blenden. A decision is expected in April or May,
following the public comment period.
To get a copy of the USFWS draft EA document: http://www.fws.gov/Alamosa/BacaNWR.html
or call 719-589-4021 to request a copy. Comments may be directed
to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michael Blenden, 9383
El Rancho Lane, Alamosa, CO 81101, Baca_EA@fws.gov.
The Deadline for submitting comments is March 3.
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