Ursa asks BLM to extend seven leases in Thompson Divide

Staff report

A second oil and gas company is trying to get the expiration date extended on its leases in Thompson Divide.

Ursa Piceance LLC of Denver asked the Bureau of Land Management on Jan. 17 to extend seven leases located where Pitkin, Garfield and Mesa counties converge. An extension was granted last year for one year. Now Ursa wants the extension to March 31, 2016, according to its letter.

Another oil and gas company, Houston-based SG Interests, filed an extension request for 18 leases in the Thompson Divide last week. The BLM hasn’t ruled on either request.

The leases were initially granted for 10 years. The companies haven’t started exploration on them.

Both companies contended the extensions are justified because the BLM is conducting an environmental impact statement on the status of the leases. Conservation groups contend the leases were offered illegally because the environmental review wasn’t performed.

In addition, Ursa claimed it would be best to extend the leases “to allow additional time for Ursa to engage in settlement discussions with governmental and environmental organizations to seek a possible purchase” or other arrangement that would let the company get fair market value. SG Interests made a similar claim.

Wilderness Workshop, a conservation group fighting to preserve Thompson Divide from gas extraction, released a statement that said it is opposed to the extension for Ursa.

“Ursa’s suspension extension request is important because, like SG Interests, the company failed to diligently develop its leases and is now asking BLM to extend the leases in hopes of getting something for nothing,” Wilderness Workshop attorney Peter Hart said in the statement. “These leases were issued in violation of the law. The leases should have expired last year. There hasn’t been any development on the leases. For all these reasons, the leases should be allowed to expire.”