MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KJCT) -- There's another heated debate surrounding the oil and gas industry, but this time it’s in our own backyard.
Mesa and Garfield counties have more than a million acres of public lands. Now, 27,000 acres of that could be up for grabs.
The Bureau of Land Management is looking at proposals to lease public lands in Mesa and Garfield counties to oil and gas companies. These are areas where officials have reason to believe there's oil or natural gas below the surface.
But before officials can open the bidding process to oil and gas companies, they must first get public comment.
The map above shows the plots of land for lease. Each red box is a parcel of land totaling 28 parcels. The proposal includes 4,975 acres in western Garfield County and 22,308 acres in various locations in Mesa County, according to the BLM.
“The Bookcliffs are the longest escarpment in the United States. There is a lot of natural gas potential there,” said Chris Joyner with the BLM. "Various companies have had interested in it."
Before they can lease out the public lands, they have a comment period to address issues and concerns that any residents may have.
"[If we are] potentially drilling on public lands, they have a right to tell us what they want us to analyze and the stipulations they want with those lease sales," said Joyner.
Officials are asking for specific comments on anything from reducing traffic, regulation on venting and flaring to suggesting the companies hire locally or to try horizontal drilling to keep some plots of land equipment free.
Following the public comment period, the BLM will open the lease sale up in December 2017, so oil companies can bid on each plot of land.
Once a company has won the bidding process, they have 10 years to start production. Their lease is valid until the well stops producing.
"There are positives and negatives but I am probably against most of it," said Devin Williams, who lives in Grand Junction. “I’m not all for it, but I understand it does create a lot of jobs.
Supporters of the industry are just excited to have production going on in their backyard once again.
“When the oil field went out it was very hard on us, it’s putting roof over your head for food on the table,” said Paula Vox, the wife of an oil worker. “We need it we need the jobs.”
“I do not have a problem with people drilling I think we need it for the economy,” said Gail Brawley, a Mack resident.
Comments need to be received by June 9. They should be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
OR mailed to the Bureau of Land Management,
Attn: Dec 2017 Lease Sale
220 E. Market St.
Meeker, CO 81641.