Antero: Lease denial won’t stop drilling plan but will cost county
Garfield County commissioners have rejected a lease proposal from a natural gas developer for county land, but it won’t stop the drilling from occurring, a company official says.It will only cost the county in lost revenues, said Bill Pierini, a land man for Antero Resources.In a somewhat confusing vote this week, commissioners John Martin and Trési Houpt rejected a proposal to lease the rights to develop the natural gas under 19 acres at the west end of the county airport near Rifle. Pierini said the area’s gas will be produced regardless, under a forced pooling law that will allow drilling to go forward because the area is part of a 320-acre lease unit.Pierini said the lease included a $24,000 signing bonus for the county. In addition, the county would have received 20 percent royalties, versus 12.5 percent under forced pooling.”What we offered them was a great deal for them,” he said.Pierini is baffled by the commissioners’ decision, and hopes to get them to reconsider it.”It didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said. “No one asked how much money was at stake. (The decision) was so far out of right field I was shocked.”Deputy county attorney Carolyn Dahlgren said the issue has been placed on the agenda for the commissioners’ meeting next Monday.Both Pierini and Dahlgren were initially confused this week about whether Martin and Houpt had voted for a motion favoring or opposing leasing. Thinking he had won approval, Pierini got up to leave, then sat back down to hear commissioners explain their vote to him. “It was a very confusing few moments,” Dahlgren said.Also unclear is the exact reason for the votes by Martin and Houpt. Houpt didn’t comment before voting, while Martin offered a few brief remarks.He said he didn’t have anything against Antero.”I just feel that there’s a perception out there that we develop to the fullest on oil and gas … and don’t preserve for the future,” Martin said.Dahlgren said it wasn’t clear to her why Martin and Houpt voted as they did, but she wants to make sure they understand the forced pooling issue and its consequences when they reconsider the matter next week.Neither Martin nor Houpt could be reached for comment Wednesday.Houpt long has pushed for more regulatory control over oil and gas development, but Martin generally has been viewed as more of a friend to the industry.Commissioner Larry McCown supports the lease. He noted that the airport land wouldn’t be disturbed by the drilling. The gas beneath it would be reached directionally from well pads located elsewhere.”It would appear to me it’s a win/win for the county. It’s a no surface occupancy. It’s a very good lease,” he said.An alternative to forced pooling is for the county to join in the well’s development, but Pierini doubts it would want to do that. It would mean essentially becoming a partner in the project, paying drilling costs along the way and sharing any risk.Pierini considered the commissioners’ vote this week to be out of character with the county’s past interactions with Antero.”We’ve got, I think, an excellent relationship with the county and city of Rifle and town of Silt,” he said.The county previously provided access to drill a well on the east end of the airport, Pierini said.”They removed roadblocks for us and helped us in the process,” he said.Rifle has leased mineral rights in the area of the airport to Antero, Pierini said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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