A Denver company has agreed to pay a nearly $689,000 fine for illegally drilling oil and gas wells on federal land in Colorado. But prosecutors say it was unintentional on the part of PDC Energy.
The company will cough up $688,500 to settle federal allegations that it drilled and produced publicly owned oil and gas in northern Colorado’s Weld County and did so without getting a lease and a permit.
The Denver Post reported the claims against PDC Energy Inc. came from the U.S. Attorney following an investigation into PDC’s drilling of a well in 2013 without getting the required approval.

The alleged trespass of federal minerals stretched from 2013 to April 30, 2019, they said.

Companies drilling for publicly owned minerals must first obtain a lease from the Bureau of Land Management and drilling permits. PDC cooperated with the investigation and the settlement resolves the company’s liability, said Matthew Kirsch, the attorney for the federal government.

“Companies have to follow the rules governing those public lands. If they don’t, they will pay an additional price,” Kirsch said in a statement.

PDC worked with the BLM and Department of Justice over several months of the investigation, company spokeswoman Courtney Loper said in an email Wednesday.

“Typically, these cases presume an intentional trespass, but PDC presented strong evidence that the trespass was unintentional,” Loper said. “As a result of constructive negotiations between PDC and the DOJ, the parties agreed to settle the matter for $688,500, which essentially split the difference between the initial starting positions of the respective parties.”

The company will have to submit an application for a drilling permit for the well and amend its existing lease application, according to the settlement agreement.

The settlement is the result of an investigation by several federal agencies, including the BLM, said  Ron Gonzales, special agent in charge for the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General’s Energy Investigations Unit.

Revenue produced from leasing public lands, including for oil and gas development, is split between the federal and state governments.