Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Divide lease decision likely to land in court

A recent U.S. Bureau of Land Management decision regarding 65 previously issued oil and gas leases on the White River National Forest, including the cancellation of 25 leases in the Thompson Divide area, is almost certain to end up in federal court. What form that will take over what claims, and which entities decide to seek legal remedies, is a matter for lawyers working on both sides of the ongoing dispute to determine. The formal Record of Decision issued Nov. 17 in Denver and signed by state BLM Director Ruth Welch and Interior Department Deputy Secretary Michael Connor stipulates that any challenges must come in federal district court, rather than by administrative appeal. One of the energy companies whose 18 Divide-area leases southwest of Glenwood Springs were canceled vowed to take legal action based on evidence it says points to collusion between the Obama administration and environmental interests to reach a “predetermined political decision.” “We will seek lost profits in the courts,” Robbie Guinn, vice president for Houston-based SG Interests, reiterated last week. Guinn pointed to testimony he gave in July to the Subcommittee on Natural Resources in Washington referring to BLM communications obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request as the basis for that legal action. In that testimony, Guinn argued that what should have been a routine unitization, or grouping, of oil and gas leases in SG’s Lake Ridge Unit in advance of seeking drilling permits, ended up becoming politicized and resulted in the retroactive review of the 65 leases. Key to the argument will also likely be a new U.S. Geological Survey study released in the spring that suggests a far greater amount of recoverable natural gas within northwestern Colorado’s Piceance Basin than earlier believed...more

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