Sen. Michael Bennet continues to seek ban on energy exploration in Thompson Divide

MarketsAssociated Press

Sen. Michael Bennet's office on Tuesday said the Democrat will reintroduce a bill to limit energy exploration in an area south of Glenwood Springs.

Bennet will reintroduce the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act in the wake of a new White River National Forest Service document that already prohibits drilling in the area roughly bounded by the Crystal, McClure Pass and Glenwood Springs. But the forest plan can be changed in a subsequent administration, while the Bennet bill would permanently prohibit future leasing federal land in the region for energy exploration.

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Many local groups argue the area's future is in outdoor tourism rather than energy extraction. But some Republicans want energy companies to be compensated for leases they hold that they would not be able to use. Bennet's bill would allow existing leaseholders to sell out their interests to conservation or other groups.

"Our goal is to facilitate a long-term solution to protect the divide and provide certainty to the surrounding communities," Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said.