Two Denver companies, Baseline Minerals Inc. and Contex Energy Company, were those expressing an interest in North Fork Valley parcels once up for oil and gas-extraction bids.
For the executive director of Citizens for A Healthy Community, the information — released by the Bureau of Land Management on Monday after a lawsuit — proves what lease opponents have long thought.
“I think there is a number of our community here who think ... the geology is not really ripe for big natural gas or oil play,” said Jim Ramey, who described the two companies as industry “landmen” firms. “The fact that it was one of these speculative companies (who bid), I think may indicate that may be the case.”
A third company, Gunnison Energy Corp., had voluntarily disclosed its identity, Ramey’s organization said in a news release. The news release, issued jointly with fellow North Fork lease opponent Western Environmental Law Center, says Monday’s information shows the other two parties “were oil and gas company landmen operating on behalf of industry clients.”
Baseline Minerals offers a variety of services, including lease negotiations and acquisitions, according to its website. Contex has offices in Denver and in North Dakota.
According to 2011 expressions of interests the BLM released on Monday, Contex was interested in about 300 acres and asked for them to be placed on the agency’s next available lease sale.
Baseline wanted to nominate several parcels, including spilt-estate parcels. In a split estate, one party owns the minerals below the ground while another party owns the surface property.
Baseline had nominated the parcels for an August, 2012 sale that was ultimately deferred after efforts from many stakeholders in the North Fork area, including Ramey’s Paonia-based organization and the Western Environmental Law Center.
The BLM stayed the August sale, but then announced its plans to proceed with a lease sale of 20 parcels this past Valentine’s Day, triggering outcry.
The agency has since deferred the parcels from sale indefinitely.
Citizens for a Healthy Community and the law center also sued to obtain the names of parties who had submitted “expressions of interest,” but the BLM had said that information was protected under confidentiality rules.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch disagreed and on Feb. 13, ordered the agency to turn over the information. The deadline, after a brief extension was granted, arrived on Monday without the BLM having filed an appeal.
An industry firm, Western Energy Alliance had sought by a March 21 filing to intervene, but Matsch denied that request late last week.
Western Energy Alliance was seeking to “intervene in this civil action for the sole purpose of filing a notice of appeal,” Matsch’s order denying the request reads.
“It’s pretty exciting that we don’t have to go through a lengthy appeals process,” Ramey said on Monday, just after the potential bidders’ information was released.
“We’re really glad the BLM has complied with the judge’s ruling. It indicates the BLM has shifted policy ... and will require full transparency of the leasing process,” he said.