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County slates hearing on Tavaputs road closures

Sun Advocate associate editor

Two months after firing off a letter protesting the Bureau of Land Management's intention to close four roads around the Bill Barrett Corp.'s West Tavaputs gas field, the Carbon County Commission is going to follow the letter of state law and hold a public hearing on the matter.

The hearing is set for Oct. 19 at 6:00 p.m. in the county courthouse. That's a necessary step in what the law prescribes for road closures. Then it would take a county ordinance declaring the roads closed for a maximum of two years.

"We think the people deserve a public hearing to express their opinions," Commissioner John Jones stated in an interview Wednesday. "That's due process in accordance with state law."

The roads proposed to be closed during drilling operations are Horse Bench, Jack Canyon, Jack Ridge, and Cedar Ridge.

In May 2010, the commission consented to consider temporary road closures in the project area if - and only if - those closures took place according to state law.

That consent was part of a multifaceted agreement among the county, state, Bill Barrett, the BLM and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. It permitted full-field development of the West Tavaputs and avoided time-consuming lawsuits that might have arisen.

However, the county insisted last July that the BLM, in acting unilaterally to gate the roads, was not following the agreement.

The letter of protest, which was widely distributed to federal and state officials, said that BLM's decision to lock the gates without public hearings is "an affront" to all other parties in the decision and the people affected.

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