The company that staked a four-well oil pad near the boundary line of the Theodore National Park’s Elkhorn Ranch site has withdrawn its application, at least for now.
A late Thursday evening letter from XTO Energy notified the state Industrial Commission that it will withdraw plans to drill a two-section spacing unit that comes up to the edge of the historic site.
A hearing was set for Thursday for what’s called a case order. The order sets out the number of wells on the unit, but not their location. It’s heard first by an Oil and Gas hearing examiner board and then by the Industrial Commission.
An XTO drilling pad is staked out on the Forest Service’s Little Missouri National Grasslands, which runs up against the Elkhorn Ranch site boundary. The stakes are 100 feet from the boundary line. The Forest Service said possible well locations also are staked on the west end of the spacing unit, two miles from the Elkhorn.
XTO’s letter asked for the case to be dismissed.
Spokesman Jeff Neu said Friday reports that the company plans to drill adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch were premature.
“We have not made a decision to drill in that location. As we are still in consultations with the Forest Service regarding a well site location, there is no need to discuss a state development plan and we have requested the issue be withdrawn from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources’ hearing docket, for now,” Neu said.
Neu said the company is considering other options.
“We’ve closely examined the issues concerning this particular site, have shared our concerns with the Forest Service throughout our discussions and are continuing to work with the Forest Service regarding a location with-in the spacing unit,” he said.
Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said Friday that XTO’s decision to withdraw its drilling plan is great news and may lead to an opportunity for the park and Forest Service to work together to protect the park.
The 218-acre site preserves where Theodore Roosevelt built a small cabin on his cattle ranch in the 1880s.
Based on public interest, it appears Thursday’s hearing would have been packed with park supporters opposed to oil development there.