SG Interests cited for improper drilling
A Texas oil company enmeshed in a decade-long dispute over leases to drill in western Colorado’s Thompson Divide area was hit with three federal “noncompliance” notices for improper drilling last week that led to a spill.
Bureau of Land Management officials ordered SG Interests to stop drilling and clean up spilled foam chemicals, wastewater and drill cuttings, BLM spokesman Steven Hall said in an email response to Denver Post queries.
“The unapproved drilling technique was intermittently discharging drill cuttings, water and foaming agent through a flaring stack,” Hall said.
SG Interests’ crew was drilling under a valid lease on land a few miles southwest of the Thompson Divide, tapping gas resources in the Bull Mountain area. But the company’s permit required capture of all waste in a tank, Hall said. Less than 2,100 gallons of waste spilled, none of it spreading beyond the immediate drilling area, located 10 miles west of McClure Pass, he said. BLM land managers ordered an immediate cleanup, then issued the noncompliance notices for failure to follow the approved drilling plan.
The Thompson Divide covers 221,000 acres of federally managed public land west of Carbondale in Pitkin, Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa and Delta counties.
BLM leaders in November canceled 25 leases to drill in the area, including 18 held by Houston-based SG Interests. Previously, BLM officials repeatedly extended the leases even though SG Interests did not use those leases to explore for oil and gas.
A coalition of county leaders, residents and environment groups have been fighting efforts to develop oil and gas in the area because, they argue, the land is far more valuable if left in pristine condition. Thompson Divide habitat sustains bear, deer, elk, moose and lynx.
In February, SG Interests filed a lawsuit challenging the BLM’s cancelations. In April, Pitkin County commissioners and the environment group Wilderness Workshop filed a lawsuit contending that BLM officials violated federal rules when they extended leases.