LANDER, Wyo -- A group opposed to natural gas drilling in the Wyoming Range says it wants to buy leases planned for development by Plains Exploration and Production Co., a move that would halt the company's controversial project in its tracks.
Yet negotiations are at a standstill as the company, also known as PXP, waits for an offer and the group waits for a price.
The group, Citizens for the Wyoming Range, opposes the Houston-based company's plan to drill 136 wells in the Noble Basin near Bondurant.
The group has encouraged its members to email PXP officials and encourage the company to sell its drilling leases to a conservation-oriented buyer, said spokesman Dan Smitherman.
The purpose of the email campaign and newly planned advertising efforts is to "let PXP know that Wyoming citizens and others who use this area want a buyout solution that benefits everyone," Smitherman said in a May 18 email to the group's members.
Smitherman said Thursday that 500 people have emailed PXP officials.
PXP has never received a buyout offer from Citizens for the Wyoming Range or any of the other conservation groups opposed to the project, said Hance Myers, PXP vice president and corporation information director, in an email released by a company spokesman.
PXP has said it would entertain any market-based offers for the leases and any offer would be evaluated on economic merits, Myers wrote.
The U.S. Forest Service is working on a supplemental management plan that will include at least one new alternative for the project. The potential plan is expected to be released in June for public comment. The Forest Service will then decide on a management strategy for the drilling project.
PXP acquired the drilling leases in 2005. The Forest Service's decision is not about whether the company can drill, but how the drilling will be done, Myers said.
Despite not knowing the parameters for the project, economic metrics can be used to determine the value of the leases, Myers' email said.
Since PXP hasn't received any buy-out offers, it has focused its efforts on collaborating with third parties, such as the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association and the Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, to reduce the impacts from the proposed drilling project.
That isn't enough, said Dan Bailey, a member of Citizens for the Wyoming Range, who owns property in the area. The group has tried to get PXP to come and listen to their concerns, but company officials said they already know what those worries are. The concessions made with a few parties are limited, he said.
"This is not a few zealots that feel this is in their backyard," Bailey said. "There are people all from the United States that cherish this area."
The agreement made with other groups, such as the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, addresses many of the Citizens for the Wyoming Range's concerns.
More than seven years of environmental analysis have gone into the project already, Bailey said.
However, PXP's proposal didn't comply with the forest management plan, Bailey said. The Forest Service has said at least one of the new alternative plans for the project will comply with the management plan.
Still, energy development isn't compatible with the area, Bailey said.
"We are the owners of this national forest - the people are," he said. "We are the guardians and we object to the path of destruction they are taking on this."
The only viable solution Bailey sees is to buy the leases from PXP. Bailey thinks the public would be interested in raising money to purchase the leases, but first they need to know a price.
Bailey said he's asked at meetings what the leases would cost and the response has always been that the company would entertain an offer.
"We need them to make a move and tell us what the target 1/8price 3/8 is," he said. "They are the ones selling the product; they have to set the price."