Baucus, Tester announce additional lease retirements near North Fork of Flathead River
Senators Have Helped Secure the Return of 80 Percent of Leased Acreage on Montana Side at No Cost to Taxpayers
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced today that four additional companies have voluntarily agreed not to pursue oil and gas development on more than 15,000 acres near Montana’s North Fork of the Flathead River. To date, the Senators have secured return of more than 200,000 acres of oil and gas leases, or 80 percent of the total leased acreage on the American side of the border, at no cost to American taxpayers.
“Areas like the North Fork attracts tourists, businesses and jobs to our state and support the outdoor activities that are part of our way of life in Montana,” Baucus said. “Our work to voluntarily retire oil and gas leases in the North Fork watershed will help preserve Montana jobs without costing American taxpayers a dime. Today’s announcement is another step toward our goal of permanently protecting the Flathead economy and quality of life for generations to come.”
“Because of the hard work of all folks involved, we’re seeing one of the world’s most pristine areas safeguarded at no cost to taxpayers,” said Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “This progress is another great step toward setting aside some of the best hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping areas in the world. That’s good news for our tourism industry and it means we’re protecting our outdoor heritage. And it means future Montanans will be able to enjoy the same outdoor values we enjoy today.”
Baucus and Tester announced today Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc, Clayton Williams Energy, Inc., Forest Oil Corporation, and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company have relinquished their interests in 11 leases in the region totaling more than 15,000 acres, meaning they will no longer pursue oil and gas exploration in the area, nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent” for its clean water and unspoiled forests, mountains and wildlife.
These leases were co-owned in part by XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, which relinquished its ownership share in September 2010. As a result of today’s announcement, 3 leases, totaling 6357 acres are now completely retired, while 8 leases are almost fully relinquished with the exception of one outstanding co-owner.
Today’s news comes on the heels of a commitment British Columbia made this week to retire existing oil and gas leases on the Canadian side of the border and pursue legislation protecting the North Fork from future leasing. Baucus and Tester have been fighting to pass similar legislation to prevent future oil and gas development and mining on the U.S. side of the border without impeding the timber industry, hunting or fishing.
For the past 30 years, Baucus has been a steady and strong voice to protect the North Fork of the Flathead River, beginning with his successful 1975 proposal to designate the Flathead as a Wild and Scenic River.
TIMELINE OF RECENT EFFORTS TO PROTECT THE NORTH FORK:
- March 4, 2010: Baucus and Tester introduce S. 3075, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act in the 11th Congress.
- April 28, 2010: ConocoPhillips voluntarily relinquishes its interest in 108 federal oil and gas leases covering approximately 169,000 acres in the region.
- June 2, 2010: Chevron voluntarily relinquishes its interest in four leases covering approximately 11,121 acres.
- June 28, 2010: At Baucus and Tester's request, President Obama discusses cooperative efforts to protect the North Fork with Canadian Prime Minister Harper.
- July 14, 2010: Anadarko voluntarily relinquishes its interest in eight leases, jointly owned with ConocoPhillips, covering 24,111.57 acres.
- July 14, 2010: Allen and Kirmse, Ltd. voluntarily relinquishes its interest in 50 leases, jointly owned with ConocoPhillips covering 50,889 acres.
- August 5, 2010: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passes S. 3075, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2010.
- September 9, 2010: XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, voluntarily relinquishes its interest in 11 leases covering 21,000 acres.
- November 19, 2010: BP voluntarily relinquishes its interest in three leases, covering 1852.91 acres, including land at the entrance of Glacier National Park
- January 31, 2011: Baucus and Tester reintroduce the North Fork Watershed Protection Act in the 112th Congress.
- February 15, 2011: British Columbia commits to retire existing oil and gas leases on the Canadian side of the border and pursue legislation protecting the North Fork from future leasing.
- February 17 2011: Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc, Clayton Williams Energy, Inc., Forest Oil Corporation, and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company will not pursue oil and gas development on 11 leases covering more than 15,000 acres near Montana’s North Fork of the Flathead River. As a result of today’s announcement, 3 leases, totaling 6357 acres are completely off the books, while 8 leases are fully relinquished with the exception of one co-owner.