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Battle continues over oil and gas drilling near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Posted at 1:31 PM, Jul 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-21 19:25:43-04

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ALAMOSA, Colo. -- There has been an ongoing fight between environmentalists and oil and gas proponents over drilling near Great Sand Dunes National Park.

"The Great Sand Dunes and areas around the sand dunes are not appropriate for drilling," Jessica Goad with Conservation Colorado told Denver7. 

The concern is that drilling would impact the surrounding air, wildlife and the water.

"There are hundreds of spills a year in Colorado," said Goad.

Just recently, the Bureau of Land Management delayed the leasing of a parcel of land about a mile east of the park. The agency is consulting with the Navajo Nation, which owns land in the area. After those discussions, leasing could move forward.

"The fight is nowhere near over," said Goad.

Those on the other side of the argument are calling foul.

"They're trying to scare the public into believing that this leasing threatens the national park," said Kathleen Sgamma with Western Energy Alliance.

She insists oil and gas development is always done responsibly.

"We follow strict environmental regulations to ensure that we minimize any risk from development and that the impact is as small as possible," she said.

As for the proximity to the park, those who are for the drilling will tell you the parcels that could eventually be leased are far enough away from the park and pose no threat. Opponents say otherwise.

"Air and water don't respect the lines that we put on the map. If there is a spill that affects water resources, that could affect the national park," said Goad.

Another view: even if drilling was allowed in the area, it wouldn't produce much thanks to a complex and fractured landscape.

"If I was to develop a well in a particular location (near the sand dunes) I wouldn't expect the same development methodology to work even in close proximity," said Hydrologist Amos Mace.

The economic impact of drilling near the park comes into play as well.

"In order to use oil and natural gas we need to produce it," said Sgamma. "It's better if we produce it here in the United States than importing it from Russia and Venezuela."

For some, they're just looking for common ground.

"We're not against oil and gas drilling," said pilot Bruce Gordon who founded EcoFlight. "We use a ton of gas. We're flying all over the country and all over the world. We just feel very strongly that it can and must be done properly."

The back-and-forth of oil and gas drilling is ongoing with the continuing battle over what's good for the economy and what's good for the environment.