EnerVest Files Suit Over BLM Utah Permit Denial

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) denied EnerVest Ltd.’s drilling permits without legal cause, essentially shutting down the company’s 2017 drilling program, the company said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

In the lawsuit – filed in U.S. District Court in Utah – EnerVest is requesting U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell provide emergency permits for EnerVest’s planned 10-well drilling program in Utah. EnerVest CEO John Walker said the denial of the permits and punting of the decision among BLM’s state, field and Washington offices cost the company $46 million in lost revenue and pipeline commitments. It also resulted lost jobs and local economic revenues. Each horizontal rig employs 250 people and contributes approximately $2.5 million each month to a local economy.

“This clearly is one last tactic from an outgoing administration that has spent eight years trying to put us out of business by over-regulating and overreaching its authority,” Walker said in a statement released to the media. “I feel that, as citizens, it is our responsibility to speak out against our government when it illegally abuses its power to further advance its job-killing agenda.”

In September of this year, EnerVest filed 10 application for permits to drill in the West Tavaputs Plateau project area, located about 30 miles northeast of Price, Utah, in Duchesne, Carbon and Uintah counties. In November, the BLM Field Office informed EnerVest that it would approve one well on each of the two pads, and then approve the remaining eight wells. But two days before EnerVest expected the approvals, the field office told EnerVest that no permits would be approved.

EnerVest also was informed that a new Environmental Assessment was required over greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The BLM Utah State office told EnerVest that BLM’s Washington D.C. office had told them to aggressively implement new White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidelines over GHGs, resulting in a new EA requirement.

Walker pointed out, however, that CEQ doesn’t expect agencies to apply this guidance to concluded NEPA reviews an actions for which a final EIS [environmental impact statement] or EA has been issued. The existing EIS was approved in 2010 and in effect until 2025. Since the EIS’s finalization, no new laws or regulations have been approved, EnerVest said in a statement.

At EnerVest’s request, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tried to get an explanation from the federal government, but was unsuccessful. According to EnerVest, all of the

EnerVest acquired the Utah properties in December 2013, Ron Whitemire, the company’s vice president and chief administrative officer, told Rigzone in an email statement.

BLM – part of the U.S. Department of the Interior – declined to comment to Rigzone on the lawsuit.


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