Colorado seeking right mix for oil and water supplies

DURANGO, Colo. — Oil and water don’t mix, especially in southwestern Colorado where a debate continues over what to do with 3,000 proposed oil and gas wells as water supplies and drilling rigs get closer together.

Mancos Valley farmer Mike Nolan said water should take precedence over oil and gas development as the federal government works on a Resource Management Plan to decide when and where wells can go.

“Water, water, water. When it comes to the MLP, my big thing on this is a concern on water. If anything happens to our water, whether it’s contaminated or diverted for use in wells, that can be a major problem for us,” Nolan said.

Christy Zeller, representing oil and gas operations for Montezuma County, said more oil and gas wells in southwestern Colorado are inevitable, and there is no reason to block progress.

“It’s another delay tactic to prevent exploration. I’m hoping we can focus on what’s missing in the Resource Management Plan, instead of some emotional conversation that has nothing to do with federal minerals,” Zeller said.

Supporters of a master plan include environmentalists, federal and state parks leaders, wildlife officials and La Plata County commissioners, who say the document would protect natural lands and promote responsible development, the Durango Herald reported.

Ranch owner Gregg Dubit said a lot depends on when the oil and gas market becomes more profitable.

“When the market returns, I think we have one of the richer gas fields in the country, and there’s definitely consideration that should be factored into the development. If you consume gas, it has to come from somewhere. If the MLP is done right, oil and gas are integrated in without causing visual, recreational, water quality impacts,” he said.

The Bureau of Land Management ultimately has final say whether it will develop a master leasing plan.