Second firm asking for extension of gas leases

A second company has asked the Bureau of Land Management to further extend the expiration dates of oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs.

Ursa Resources’ request is drawing opposition from groups that want to protect the 220,000-acre area from drilling, as in the case of a recent request made by SG Interests.

The companies want a suspension of the leases until early 2016. They previously had been suspended through this April 1, which prevented their 10-year terms from expiring because of a lack of development activity on them.

In a prepared statement, attorney Peter Hart of the Wilderness Workshop conservation group said Ursa, like SG Interests, “failed to diligently develop its leases and is now asking BLM to extend the leases in hopes of getting something for nothing.”

Don Simpson, vice president for business development for Ursa, said that in fact efforts in connection with developing the leases date back to 2007.

The BLM granted the previous suspension partly because it needs to conduct an environmental review of the Ursa and SG leases and dozens of others in the White River National Forest due to a failure to do such analysis, or adopt existing analysis, before their issuance. It also wanted to allow time for continued negotiations with parties including the Thompson Divide Coalition, which has offered to buy the leases to prevent drilling from occurring.

Ursa cites both of those factors in support of its request for a further suspension. Simpson said the company and the coalition have agreed on a buyout price that is substantially less than what Ursa paid Antero Resources to acquire the leases. But he said the coalition doesn’t have the money, and another holdup is that the deal is contingent on getting legislation passed to permanently withdraw the acreage from future leasing.

He said Ursa has suggested instead making the deal contingent on administrative withdrawal of the lease acreage by the federal government, which would prevent its leasing for a long time, during which legislation could be pursued.

Zane Kessler, executive director of the coalition, said he can’t see a lease buyout working if the coalition isn’t achieving permanent protection.

Kessler said the coalition has never made an offer it doesn’t believe it can fulfill financially. He said Ursa only showed renewed interest in talks when it raised the issue in trying to justify its suspension request.


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