Louisiana land company nominates BLM parcels

A Louisiana company nominated the more than 10,000 acres in La Plata County that are set to be leased for natural-gas and oil development in November. The leases for eight parcels of Bureau of Land Management-owned minerals south and west of Hesperus were originally going to be auctioned off in February, but were deferred by state officials a few days before the sale. State BLM officials decided in April to put the Southwest Colorado acreage, which encompasses a total of 12,000 acres in five counties, back up for auction.

The BLM released the name of the Louisiana nominator, Mark A. O’Neal and Associates, last month, more than three months after The Durango Herald filed a public-records request for the names of all entities that had nominated lands for lease in Southwest Colorado’s Tres Rios Field Office area.

The company, headquartered in Baton Rouge, La., provides land services “across the mineral leasing sections” to businesses in the energy industry. It also has an office in Durango.

Among the testimonials on the company’s website is a glowing review from a land supervisor with Swift Energy, the Texas company that plans to drill two Mancos Shale wells just south of the BLM parcels. Mark A. O’Neal and Associates has assisted Swift in the permitting of those wells, Bob Redweik, Swift’s manager of health, safety and environment, wrote in an email.

However, the company declined to disclose whether it was working with Mark A. O’Neal and Associates to lease BLM minerals in the area, citing confidentiality concerns and the risk of being placed at a competitive disadvantage.

Currently, Swift has submitted a permit with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to drill one wildcat well about 3½ miles west of La Plata Highway (Colorado Highway 140) near Alkali Gulch Road. According to its permit application, the company does not plan to use hydraulic fracturing on the horizontal well.

If the company changes its plans and decides to frack the well, it will have meet several requirements including holding a public meeting and doing additional water well testing.

COGCC director Matt Lepore has until Aug. 4 to approve the permit.

Meanwhile, the land-use application that Swift submitted to La Plata County was deemed incomplete. The company failed to satisfy several key requirements including identifying the source of water to be used for drilling and construction and providing a separate bond to cover potential land use-related violations. The cumulative horsepower to be generated on the site also currently exceeds the limits of Swift’s minor facility permit.

On Monday, Swift provided a letter verifying it will receive water from a trucking company that buys water from the city of Farmington. M&R Trucking has the legal right to use city water for Swift’s project, the letter said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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