Colo. senator introduces Thompson Divide bill

Posted: Mar 27, 2013

Written by

Janet Urquhart, Aspen Times
Thompson Divide

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Friday introduced the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, offering what the congressman's office termed a “middle-ground solution” to the hotly contested prospect of future gas drilling on the public lands southwest of Carbondale.

The bill would withdraw unleased minerals in the 221,000-acre area from future oil-and-gas development while also preserving existing property rights for current leaseholders. It also creates an opportunity for existing leases to be retired should they be donated or sold by willing owners. There are currently 61 active claims spotted around roughly 105,000 acres of Thompson Divide; 23 undeveloped leases are scheduled to expire this year.

Bennet, D-Colo., drafted his bill at the urging of local governments and with input from leaseholders and others with an interest in the fate of Thompson Divide. He released it for public comment in August, and it drew “overwhelming” support during a four-month period. Nearly 700 people filed comments, and 99 percent supported the measure, the senator's office said. Fewer than 1 percent said oil-and-gas development or leasing should continue in the area.

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