Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Western Slope Community Fighting Energy Development in Its Backyard

By Matt Kroschel

Paonia, CO - There was a shortage of chairs in the Paonia Junior High School gymnasium Wednesday evening as hundreds of residents packed inside to learn more about the possibility of their rural community turning into an oil and gas drilling hub. The Bureau of Land Management is considering leasing 30,000 acres to oil and natural gas development. The proposal surrounds towns in the North Fork Valley.

Two separate local environmental groups have teamed up to get information about the proposal in Delta County. Their work seems to be paying off. At several meetings, there have been hundreds of people showing up, signing petitions and writing letters to the BLM asking them to deny the lease proposal.

Under regulations, the oil and natural gas company who nominated the area does not have be identified, and the BLM has extended the public comment period until February 9th.

“This could spell disaster for my organic farm. I am not going to let this happen. Our water comes from these hills, and that is exactly where they want to develop,” organic farmer Michael McCarthy told NewsChannel 5 from his farm Wednesday.

For Paonia mayor Neal Schwiterman, the concerns over water do not stop with local farmers. “One of the parcels comes right up next to city limits. Two of our drinking water wells are inside the area. We are concerned,” Schwiterman said.

For more information about specific parcels, click here.

To email your comments directly to the BLM at

There will be another community meeting Thursday evening Crawford Town Hall.