The Bull Mountain area with Huntsman Ridge in the background.

Take Action on Proposed Bull Mountain Drilling Plan

Updated April 2, 2014 –

There’s a lot of community concern about the proposed 146-gas well Bull Mountain master development plan (MDP) in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.  You have only two weeks left to submit your comment letter to the BLM!  Have you written your letter yet?

For instructions and details to aid in your letter writing, CHC has prepared a 2-page information sheet.  Click here for a PDF of the info sheet, or click here to download it in word document format.

Make sure to personalize your letter
How could oil and gas development in the area impact you personally?  Or has it already?  For instance, have you been stuck on Highway 133, or had to take a different route, due to rockslides that closed the road?  Has your business been impacted by the existing or proposed development in the area?  Here’s some examples, relevant to geology and socio-economic impacts.

Unstable Geology
In the EIS, the BLM notes that “The area east of Highway 133 (western slopes of Ragged Mountain to Muddy Creek) contains unstable slopes with high potential for landslide activity. … Wells that penetrate landslide-prone deposits could be deformed by creep, or ruptured by rapid movement of slide deposits relative to the underlying rock. Surface equipment including tanks and pipelines could be damaged in a landslide, potentially resulting in releases or safety hazards. West of Highway 133 there are many areas with greater than 15 percent slopes and some areas, particularly bordering West Muddy Creek, and along the larger streams, where slopes exceed 30 percent. Steep slopes are susceptible to rock slides and debris flows, and slope stability can be reduced by construction activity if material at the toe of a slope is removed or destabilized, such as for road cuts or leveling of well pads. Slope failure would be a significant impact” (EIS at 4-93).


Socio-Economic Impacts
Further, the BLM writes that “there is some indication that increased truck traffic and visual impacts of drilling rigs may impact visitor experience. Local organic farmers and wineries express similar concerns as noted in recent new articles (for example, Taylor 2013; Jaffee 2012)” (EIS at 4-187).  “Additionally, comments from local business owners involved in natural homes and alternative energy noted they have already experienced a decrease in business related to uncertainly about development and related impacts on the social setting.”  (EIS at 4-197).

General Info:  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is accepting public comments on a large-scale drilling proposal for the North Fork Valley watershed.  The proposal is known as the Bull Mountain Master Development Plan (MDP).  SG Interests submitted this MDP, which calls for 146 new gas wells, 4 new waste water disposal wells, and associated infrastructure in the Bull Mountain Unit—a nearly 20,000 acre area between Paonia Reservoir and McClure Pass.  This area is primarily private surface ownership with a majority of public minerals.  In accordance with federal law, the BLM has prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider the consequences of approving the project.

The BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) considers three alternatives from which it can choose:

  • Alternative A – No Action, which is what would happen if the BLM chooses to disapprove the MDP.
  • Alternative B – Proposed Action, which is what SG Interests has proposed to do.
  • Alternative C – Modified Action, which is very similar to Alternative B with some additional mitigation measures and restrictions.

SG Interests is not required to submit a MDP to develop their mineral leases.  The use of an MDP is preferable to piecemeal development, and thus piecemeal environmental analysis by the BLM.  It is important to note that if the BLM selects Alternative A – No Action, that does not mean that development will not happen.  Rather, development could be proposed through a piecemeal process.  The use of an MDP is preferable to plan for the cumulative impacts of the development and to require additional mitigation measures and best management practices that will reduce impacts if development goes forward.

Initially, the BLM announced only a 45 day public comment period.  CHC and our conservation partners filed a request for an extension and asked for 90 days, which was granted by the BLM.  Public comments are now due on this project by April 16th.

Here’s the gist of the Bull Mountain MDP proposal:

Click the image to read the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

  • The Bull Mountain Unit is a nearly 20,000 acre area between Paonia Reservoir and McClure Pass, with more than 13,000 acres of federal mineral leases.
  • SG’s plan calls for 146 new gas wells and 4 waste water disposal wells on 36 well pads (EIS at ES-7).
  • The proposal from SG also calls for 53 miles of upgrades to existing roads, 16 miles of new road construction, 8 miles of new “cross-country” pipeline construction, and 4 new compressor stations.
  • SG proposes to drill the wells in 6 years with 27 wells drilled each year, using 744.1 acre-feet of fresh water, and total recycled and produced water use of 1,736.1 acre-feet (EIS at ES-7 to ES-8).

Here are some helpful links for more information:

  • Click here for a two-page information sheet to aid in your letter writing.
  • Click here to view a 2-page fact sheet and map of the Bull Mountain drilling proposal.
  • Click here to view a PowerPoint presentation from CHC’s open house meeting on Feb. 6th.
  • The draft EIS is available for review by clicking here for a reduced size document (15 MB) or clicking here for the full size document (49 MB). o Hard copies of the EIS are available at the Paonia Library (2 Third St.), The Hive in Paonia (130 Grand Ave.), the USFS Paonia Ranger District (North Rio Grande Ave.), and the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office (2465 S. Townsend Ave. in Montrose).
  • Click here to watch a video of public comments from the BLM’s Feb. 10th public meeting.
  • Click here to read an op-ed about the Bull Mountain drilling project in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel from the Paonia Chamber of Commerce President Mike Drake.
  • Click here to read a letter to the editor from Shawn LaBounty.
  • Click here to read a letter to the editor from CHC Board member Joli Soule.


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