Barrett may drill 3,200 wells atop the Roan Plateau

Bill Barrett Corp. plans to drill up to 3,200 wells atop the Roan Plateau, 15 times the projection the Bureau of Land Management used in analyzing the impacts of oil and gas development there.

Attorneys for Earthjustice, representing the Colorado Environmental Coalition, raised the issue in a court filing last week. They say it bolsters the coalition’s contention in a lawsuit that the BLM violated the law by failing to evaluate the full environmental effects of reasonably foreseeable development on top of the plateau.

The filing says Bill Barrett Corp. has made its well projection both in a prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and in an industry conference presentation.

“BBC’s statements further support CEC’s claim that BLM failed to analyze the reasonably foreseeable future development atop the Plateau,” the attorneys wrote in Friday’s filing.

Earlier this year, Barrett bought a 90 percent interest in the plateau-top oil and gas leases, which were acquired by Vantage Energy a year ago as part of a lease sale that also involved lands at the base of the plateau.

“BBC’s figure confirms the predictions in BLM’s own analysis and computer modeling that thousands of wells are likely to be drilled atop the Plateau,” the Earthjustice attorneys said in their filing.

The BLM evaluated the impacts of 210 wells it predicted would be drilled over 20 years rather than the 1,400 to 2,000 it thinks eventually might be drilled there, the lawsuit contends.

In a response to the suit, the government defended its failure to look at effects beyond 20 years, saying it isn’t required to analyze impacts “that are speculative or too remote.”

Talks have been ongoing in an attempt to settle the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Barrett spokesman Jim Felton said Friday that conservation groups aren’t acknowledging the reduced impacts “of drilling an ever-increasing number of wells off a single pad to minimize surface disturbance.”

He said conservation groups also fail to acknowledge the work that thousands of people put in over several years “to come up with the most restrictive development plan in the West.”

“So it does lead one to ask: Is there any way these groups would ever be appeased? And I think most groups would take that answer to be no,” Felton said.


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