A small, family-owned Colorado oil and gas exploration company located in Denver, holds oil and gas leases in the White River National Forest in Colorado. It’s just west of an area commonly referred to as the Thompson Creek Divide. Some 80 federal oil and gas leases were issued throughout the Divide but extremist environmental groups and agenda-driven government bureaucrats have used various political and legal tactics to prevent their development. Despite more than twenty years of investment in this area, these extremists are trying to drive this small company out of business, no matter what the law says, and no matter how much the nation could benefit from developing these energy reserves.
In 1995, WillSource Enterprise, LLC purchased its oil and gas leases. After proving that the wells were capable of production and consolidating them into a “Unit Agreement” contract with the Department of Interior, WillSource delayed drilling due to environmental concerns, pipeline issues out of its control, and the limited drilling season in the mountains.
WillSource acted responsibly and with care for the environment. From 2004-2008, WillSource worked closely with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to address the concerns of environmental groups, often when WillSource was under no obligation to do so, and at great expense.
Beginning in 2009, however, the demands intensified, and the agencies began a pattern of unreasonable and deceitful behavior. In June of 2012, the BLM issued a decision retroactively cancelling three of WillSource’s leases claiming the company’s contract had expired in 2011. This came as a surprise to WillSource, which had diligently maintained close contact with the BLM about the status of its leases.
In fact, the BLM and other agencies had continued to treat all seven of WillSource’s leases as valid existing leases in meetings and other official documents. The Office of Natural Resource Revenue even continued to bill WillSource for the expired leases.
WillSource appealed that decision to the BLM Colorado State Director. In 2014, the State Director of the BLM upheld the cancellation. Due to the Department’s rules, WillSource was forced to appeal the State Director’s decision to an administrative body, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (“IBLA”).
In May of 2017, the IBLA issued its decision, upholding the State Director’s decision and affirming the cancellation of WillSource’s leases. Throughout this time, various environmental groups have been actively using political and legal tactics to prevent development gas leases in the Divide.
Responsible production of energy is vital to our country’s economic growth and independence. And we believe it’s wrong for the government to illegally revoke a small businesses’ energy leases after years of investment. WillSource would not be able to afford to keep fighting an army of government lawyers. But with our help, WillSource was finally able to take its case to federal court in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.