BLM suspends another lease, expirations loom for two others

An oil and gas lease scheduled to expire Saturday was suspended by the Bureau of Land Management today due to the environmental review it has begun on that lease and 64 others on the White River National Forest.

The 1,280-acre is in Mesa County about 15 miles south of Silt, and just west of West Divide Creek. A square mile is 640 acres.

The request was made by lease owner Oxy USA and by Axia Energy, which Oxy has designated as the oil and gas operator for the lease.

The lease was scheduled to expire following a lack of drilling on it during its 10-year lease term. But the BLM agreed suspending it was warranted during the length of the larger agency review. A draft environmental impact statement on that review is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2015. The suspension also prohibits development activity on the lease while it’s in effect.

The BLM similarly has suspended 18 SG Interests and seven Ursa Resources leases that also are part of the ongoing lease review. Those leases are in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs, which a coalition has been seeking to protect from drilling. Opponents of the drilling have opposed those suspensions.

The suspended Oxy lease is about five miles west of the Thompson Divide area.

A 481-acre WPX Energy lease is scheduled to expire Aug. 31, but WPX also sought a suspension due to the 65-lease review. A 1,160-acre Noble Energy lease also is scheduled to expire then, and the BLM hasn’t received a suspension request from Noble.

The Noble and WPX leases are southwest of Rifle on Battlement Mesa, BLM spokesman David Boyd said. The WPX lease is near Porcupine Creek and the Noble one is near Cache Creek.

The BMM is reviewing the leases due to a failure to adopt a Forest Service environmental impact statement, or conduct its own, before leasing them. The Forest Service decides what national forest areas are available for leasing, while the BLM issues leases.

Eight of the leases under review are producing. The agency says its review could lead to cancellation, revision of conditions or no action on individual leases.

The BLM says it received 34,000 comments during a draft scoping comment on its review. Conservation groups say they alone submitted 33,000 comments.

The industry and its supporters have objected to possible cancellation or alteration of leases due to property-right, economic-impact and other concerns.


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