Roan Plateau options include directional drilling

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013

Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp., which owns leases atop the plateau, filed the appeal. It has argued that requiring directional drilling is technically and economically infeasible, and requiring it would basically amount to invalidating its leases.

Bill Barrett spokesman Jim Felton declined to comment because of the litigation.

Environmentalists and conservation groups sued to block the leases that were granted at the end of the Bush administration.

Mike Freeman, an Earthjustice attorney who represented a coalition of those groups in the case, said they want the BLM to consider directional drilling. They maintain that 80 percent of the available gas could be accessed that way.

"The agency has a chance to get it right this time and really give the Roan the protection it deserves," Freeman said.

The plateau is home to some of the country's largest elk and deer herds, and genetically pure native cutthroat trout dating to the last ice age.

The 2008 auction of leases on the Roan generated nearly $114 million, which was a record for onshore energy lease sales in the Lower 48 states at the time.