Company accused of abandoning Rio Blanco well sites

An energy company is accused of having walked away from operations in Rio Blanco County, leaving behind eight wells needing attention and pads that must be cleaned up and reclaimed.

Violations being alleged against West Hawk Energy (USA) LLC by state inspectors vary somewhat by well. They include wells that haven’t been properly tested or plugged, spilled exploration and production fluids; lack of erosion controls; chemical containers and other debris on site; and pits with liners in poor condition, oil in them, and lacking fencing or netting to keep out livestock and wildlife. A dead animal was found in one pit, inspectors said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is scheduled to consider during its August meeting whether to find West Hawk in violation of its rules and impose a fine. West Hawk’s bond is insufficient to cover the needed work, the commission said.

The commission will be asked to authorize Puckett Land Co. to take over plugging and reclamation activities. The work would be handled by Encana Oil & Gas (USA), Encana spokesman Doug Hock said.

“Essentially it’s at our cost,” Hock said.

He said Encana will do the work because of a contractual obligation to Puckett, which owns the land involved. Encana had farmed out the gas leases for West Hawk to develop under an agreement between the two companies. Hock said Encana settled a lawsuit against West Hawk over agreement obligations.

The property in question is part of what’s known as the Figure Four Ranch, northwest of De Beque.

Vancouver-based West Hawk Development Corp. owns West Hawk Energy and in 2006 announced the start of drilling under its agreement with Encana. It said it envisioned a drilling program involving up to 256 wells on the ranch, which would mark its transition from a purely exploration company to an energy producer.

Rob Willis, the oil and gas commission’s acting hearing manager, said he hasn’t been able to reach West Hawk Energy by mail. The Denver-based company’s phone number on record with the commission is no longer in service, and a message left at a phone number for West Hawk Development was not returned for this story.

West Hawk Energy is accused of breaking more than a dozen rules in the case of some wells. It could face a fine of up to $10,000 per rule violation.

Willis said he would expect to ask for the maximum allowable penalty, although he hasn’t figured out what the total amount would be. He acknowledged the company’s only incentive to pay might be if it wants to again operate in the state.


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