Oil

Anschutz Exploration to halt oil, gas drilling on Blackfeet Reservation

2013-03-20T06:10:00Z 2014-10-03T14:27:18Z Anschutz Exploration to halt oil, gas drilling on Blackfeet Reservation missoulian.com

A Denver-based energy exploration company that has been searching for oil and gas on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation alongside Glacier National Park announced Tuesday that it would cease drilling and shut down the project.

The company, Anschutz Exploration Corp., released a statement saying that “drilling and testing have located some resources, but not enough to support further exploration or development investment,” and called the sudden move a “business decision.”

The company, which is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, has drilled 14 exploratory wells, and analyzed multiple hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs, according to the statement.

Anschutz has been active on the reservation for more than a decade, and notified the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council of its decision Monday.

“We appreciate the commitment that everyone has made to work for success on this large project; however, there are other projects in our company that require our attention,” Christopher Hunt, chairman and chief executive of Anschutz, said.

The oil and gas play has been met with criticism due to its proximity to Glacier National Park’s boundary and various sacred tribal sites, and because of the unknown effect that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will have on natural resources and wildlife, both on the reservation and inside the park.

“I think it is good that this is slowing down,” said Jack Gladstone, a tribal member and a member of the Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, a nonprofit group working to preserve the headwaters of the Missouri River. “We need to act as stewards of our water resources and, fundamentally, we felt that the surface and ground water originating on and flowing through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation are of paramount importance to the future well being of our people. We have to consider the potential that fracking would irreparably damage these water resources.”

A spokesman for Anschutz said the company will surrender leases on all lands that are not within a spacing unit for a producing well.

“We will continue to operate the five or so producing wells for now,” Anschutz spokesman Brent Temmer said.

The company will reclaim drilling sites and access roads of non-producing wells. Reclamation includes plugging and decommissioning wells, removing surface equipment, regrading, replacing topsoil and reseeding, he said.

***

The decision to discontinue drilling comes days after the Missoulian published a story about a petition opposing a hospitality company with direct ties to Anschutz that is expected to bid on Glacier Park’s upcoming concessions contract.

In addition to ventures in oil, railroads, telecommunications and entertainment, Phil Anschutz owns Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc., the nation’s largest park concessionaire, which manages lodges in numerous national parks in the American West and currently holds the primary concession contract for Yellowstone National Park.

The petition was endorsed last week by Blackfeet Tribal Business Councilman and state Sen. Shannon Augare, and had more than 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening. The entreaty urges signees: “Do not award a lucrative concessions contract for Glacier National Park to billionaire Phil Anschutz while he is threatening the future of the park with his fracking on abutting land.”

The company’s leasehold of nearly 600,000 acres is on the western third of the Blackfeet Nation, adjacent to Glacier National Park. Two other exploration companies with leases on the remaining reservation lands halted their operations earlier.

Conservationists, park officials and some tribal members had previously asked Anschutz to conduct baseline water quality testing and wildlife surveys before beginning full-field exploration along the Rocky Mountain Front so as to determine the effects of fracking on the ecosystem.

Park officials raised concerns about degradation to air and water quality, wildlife and the viewshed. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the limited scope of the company’s environmental assessments to date, and pressed Anschutz to disclose its intentions for full-field development and submit to a broader assessment.

Others have suggested that economic development on the reservation will be buoyed by protecting natural resources, and that the financial gains would be greater and more sustainable.

“This isn’t the end of an economic development conversation on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, it is actually the beginning of a sustainable economic development conversation in Indian country that emphasizes a whole portfolio of opportunities, including natural energy development with an eye toward natural resource protection,” Michael Jamison, Glacier program manager with the National Parks Conservation Association, said. “This has incredible potential to help drive a sustainable economy into the future. We have already started that conversation, and this gives us the breathing room to continue that conversation.”

Reach Tristan Scott at @tristanscott, at tristan.scott@missoulian.com or at (406) 531-9745.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. Abooksginasakanapi
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    Abooksginasakanapi - August 10, 2013 10:57 pm
    The Bakken Formation does exist on the reservation but it is within completely different structural geology than the Williston Basin. Oil companies follow the path of least resistance when it comes to developing an oil field. Right now the cheapest places to drill are in these areas which have been labeled unconventional plays e.g. Northeastern MT and Northwestern ND. Keep in mind that the technology (FRAC) has existed to develop these areas dating back to the 50's and 60's it's just that the demand was not as great back then. The price of oil on a global market has driven the redevelopment of these practices which has been the driving force behind these new "BOOMS”. On a personal note, I am stunned to see so much outside (non-native) influence pouring in against the development of these people’s lands. Browning and the Blackfeet Nation need this now more than ever. Unemployment is astronomical on the res and most working Indians have to leave to make a decent wage for their families. We are now seeing safer and more responsible oil and gas development than ever before. Why not do it correctly? Why not now? What are you waiting for? Unemployment is less than 2% around the MHA Nation. I see brand new 50k escalades parked in front of 1978 single wide trailers there. The truth is that the Blackfeet Tribe shouldn't have to wait until the technology to develop their natural resources safely has been rediscovered. All they have to do is look north to the Canadians for that, same producing geological structures....."Formations do not stop at borders". In addition, I am also curios about why these extremists are so concerned about the air quality of Glacier Park with respect to oil field development on the reservation. THE WIND BLOWS 100 MPH FROM THE WEST SOUTH WEST 98% OF THE TIME ON TOWARDS THOSE UGLY, INEFFICIENT WIND FARMS TO THE EAST IN CUT BANK, SHELBY AND THE KEVIN RIM.*** Talking about sight pollution***
  2. mike1
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    mike1 - June 18, 2013 11:26 am
    I am pleased to read how the drillers leave the site--put roads back to natural, etc. This should be application standard for any oil lease (maybe it already is).
  3. Napi-Coyote
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    Napi-Coyote - March 28, 2013 5:21 pm
    Don't try and tell me Chewy... old Phil's getting out for a couple of reasons one of which I'll agree with you on, there is no oil there...! Since his strip of leases were on the west end of the rez, where he was drilling deeper for pools caused by the over thrust, he found very few... and so's not to jeopardize his twenty year NPS consessions contract, he's goin' for the bigger ca$h over the long run. And one other thing I would like to remind you of, is the Bakken DOES continue under Indian country since you've surely heard of the Southern Alberta Bakken play...?!!!
  4. Napi-Coyote
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    Napi-Coyote - March 28, 2013 4:36 pm
    What all you tree-huggers needs to understand is that old Phil's strip of oil leases were on the west end of the rez over the upwards slope of the rocky mountain uplift where he'd drill deeper for seep pools, that simply were not there... and had nothing to do with the Southern Alberta Bakken play (which I presume Newfield and Rose will pursue). Added to this is Phil's twenty year consessions contract with the National Park Service, which would bring in lots more ca$h!
  5. Dubs
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    Dubs - March 21, 2013 3:37 pm
    A friend in the oil business passed on to me that there is really not much oil there. Many holes and very little oil is the result. Tribe is very difficult to deal with and Anschutz can move east and find lots of oil. This is a completely different field than the Bakken and reading the questions about fracking, there is NO evidence that fracking has ever degraded water quality.
  6. Chewy
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    Chewy - March 21, 2013 2:04 pm
    No, it is not the same formation. The Bakken does not extend to the reservation, you are just making stuff up.
  7. Chewy
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    Chewy - March 21, 2013 2:02 pm
    Did you bother to read the article? How can you have oil development when there is no oil ?
  8. Chewy
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    Chewy - March 21, 2013 11:23 am
    What in the world are you mumbling about? They stopped drilling because there is not enough oil to make it profitable. It has nothing to do with Baucus, Tester, Reid or anything the environmental movement did.
  9. lakeguy406
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    lakeguy406 - March 20, 2013 5:27 pm
    Yay!!!
  10. BigTree
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    BigTree - March 20, 2013 12:08 pm
    The Moapa Paiutes (400 Tribal Members) in Nevada did something similar when they rejected Nevada Energy’s play to retrofit their Reid Gardner Coal Plant outside of Logandale Nevada. NV Energy officials spent millions to improve the air surrounding the Plant in recent years to no avail. Electricity produced by coal doesn’t fit into Senator Harry Reid’s narrative so he orchestrated the approval of the only ‘renewable energy’ permit (solar energy in this case) by the federal government on tribal lands to make up for the closure of the Reid Gardner Coal Plant.

    Both Senator Baucus and Tester share Senator Reid’s dislike of coal, oil and gas drilling and I’m sure the Blackfeet cut a similar deal as the Moapa Paiutes, or at least I hope they did.


    Senators Baucus’s (who is up for re-election) ‘The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act’ is nothing more than a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing. Since he raises a majority of his campaign funds from outside Montana from environmental groups that support closing off access to large swaths of the West he is beholden to their wishes. They desire is to makes states like Montana into one large tourist park to prevent the extraction of OUR natural resources. They achieve this by donating large amounts of campaign funds to like-minded elected officials who then in turn introduce legislation creating ‘wilderness’ and ‘open space’ thus removing those areas from exploration.


    Unfortunately it seems the Blackfeet Nation has bought into the environmentalist scheme which will only hurt them in the end by severely restricting economic development, lowering their quality of life and gravely reducing the necessary funds they need to deliver a quality education to their members.
  11. snickers
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    snickers - March 20, 2013 11:33 am
    This is such good news!
  12. oil hauler
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    oil hauler - March 20, 2013 11:20 am
    its a shame that the people of the reservation dont want to expand their resources. the revenue from the energy that oil development would do for the reservation would be incredible. the issue over fracking is driven by people that dont understand the process. yes it takes a lot of water to frack a well but that is a short term issue. the issues are being looked at by a lot of short sighted people and thats a shame for the rest of us.
  13. jazz
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    jazz - March 20, 2013 10:20 am
    Well, the Blackfeet people didn't need the jobs that oil was bringing in, what with all the tourism dollars they are going to generate now that those un-sightly oil tanks won't be messing up the view!
  14. greenriverkate
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    greenriverkate - March 20, 2013 9:23 am
    I know many people are poor and need money. We are no different but have refused oil/gas drilling on our land since the 70's. Fracking is the problem, water, air, animals! I am so glad as we many NEVER hear from these oil companies again! We did promise elders in the 60's to protect the land and rez. We kept that promise!
  15. MudLogger
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    MudLogger - March 20, 2013 3:43 am
    It is the Bakken shale formation that they were going after. The is the same formation is under the ground east of glacier as is under western NODAK it just must not be as juicey as furthur east and south is.
  16. logger
    Report Abuse
    logger - March 19, 2013 10:10 pm
    If they would have struck another "Bakken", the tribe would have forgotten all about Glacier.
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