Denver Company Pays $194K to Resolve Claims it Took Federal Minerals Without Permission

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Aug. 25 that PDC Energy, Inc., an oil and gas company headquartered in Denver, paid $194,000 to resolve allegations it drilled and operated an oil and gas well that removed federal minerals without permission.

To access federal minerals managed by the Bureau of Land Management, oil and gas exploration companies must first obtain a federal lease and a BLM-issued permit to drill a well. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted the federal lease includes an obligation to pay a mineral royalty to the U.S. for the federal minerals produced from the well. Taking minerals without permission is considered trespassing.

The U.S. contended that in 2015, PDC drilled a well into federal minerals in Weld County without the necessary permissions, according to the announcement. The U.S. also alleged PDC operated that well for several years without paying the U.S. royalties for the minerals it extracted. PDC notified the U.S. of this well after a prior investigation and settlement with PDC involving mineral trespass. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted PDC fully cooperated with the investigation.

“Federal public lands belong to all of us, and protecting them is a priority for our office,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan in the press release. “Oil and gas companies that wish to drill on federal lands and take minerals owned by the public must obtain permission.”

“This settlement is the direct result of the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Office of the Solicitor working collaboratively and diligently with the Department of Justice to protect our nation’s mineral resources and ensure that public revenues are collected on behalf of all American taxpayers,” said Ron Gonzales, special agent in charge for the Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General’s Energy Investigations Unit, in a statement.

“The BLM is responsible for the management of the public’s energy and mineral resources. We take that responsibility seriously both to ensure the public receives the compensation due and to enable stewardship of impacted lands and resources,” said BLM Colorado State Director Doug Vilsack in the press release.

This case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Wang. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there’s been no determination of liability.

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