WPX trims Parachute, regional workforce in Colorado | PostIndependent.com

WPX trims Parachute, regional workforce in Colorado

WPX Energy is selling its assets in western Colorado.
Heidi Rice / Post Independent file |

WPX Energy announced Monday, March 2, that it will trim 8 percent of its workforce, including 11 of 231 positions that are part of its Parachute operations, in the company’s ongoing response to low oil and gas prices.

Companywide, 83 employees were notified that their positions are being eliminated, including 25 in Denver, two in New Mexico, one in North Dakota, and 44 at the company’s regional offices in Tulsa.

The biggest hit is to the company’s Denver offices, where WPX also plans to move about 120 positions to Tulsa as part of a consolidation effort, according to a company news release issued Monday afternoon.

“These are tough decisions that impact good people who have worked hard and done their best for WPX. We do not take that lightly,” WPX CEO Rick Muncrief said in the release.

“We’ve evaluated many options to adjust our cost structure, and no solution is perfect,” he said. “Decisions are especially difficult when they affect people’s lives.”

Most of the Denver workforce is being given the option to transfer to Tulsa, and only a small staff of less than 15 will remain in Denver, said WPX spokesman Kelly Swan.

Those positions will be focused on legal, environmental compliance, safety and government affairs functions, he said.

“Their jobs depend upon maintaining strong local relationships and interacting frequently with judicial, governmental or regulatory officials,” Swan said.

He declined to say which position were cut in the Western Slope field offices in Parachute, other than it involved “a variety of skill sets and disciplines.”

Though the Parachute-based operations were largely spared in comparison to the regional offices, “this is not something that we like to see in our community,” Parachute Mayor Roy McClung said.

“We don’t want to see anybody lose their job, but this is something that’s well beyond our control, and is more global in nature,” McClung said.

Over the past six months, crude oil prices have plummeted almost 50 percent, while natural gas prices have decreased by about one-third. Energy companies have responded by scaling back new drilling operations in Colorado and elsewhere.

“The natural gas industry is going through some tough times right now with the low prices,” said Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson of Rifle, noting that the county is heavily dependent on the industry for jobs and tax revenues.

“Eleven local families are impacted, and we certainly hate to see that,” he said. “We do hope things will turn around, because we need those good-paying jobs.”

WPX employees whose jobs were cut are being offered six weeks to one year of severance pay, depending on how many years they’ve been with the company.

Cash payments to assist with continued health-care coverage, accrued time off and performance pay are also being extended to the workers whose jobs were cut, according to the company release.

Earlier this year, WPX announced that it was halting new natural gas well completions in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado, in reaction to the rapid drop in commodity prices.

Following that decision, the company said it was reducing the number of drill rigs operating in the region from nine last year to three this year, but that it would continue to invest between $200 million and $225 million in its Western Slope operations.

That plan remains unchanged, Muncrief said. However, the investment in the region by WPX is down from $500 million last year.

McClung said the town of Parachute has been impacted by the downturn, in the way of lower sales tax returns and empty hotel rooms.

“Everybody is affected by it right now, and even though we have seen it before it’s still difficult to plan for,” he said. “And, anytime people start losing jobs, that’s not a good thing.”

Swan said WPX’s office consolidation between Denver and Tulsa is intended to reduce costs, achieve efficiencies and bring the company’s technical professionals, including engineers and geologists, together in one office.

The Denver regional office will lose 25 of its current 156 employees.

To manage costs, WPX also offered a voluntary early exit program in mid-2014. Approximately 100 people companywide accepted the offer, the company said.

WPX continues to operate more than 4,700 wells in western Colorado and is the state’s largest producer of natural gas.


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