JEFFERSON COUNTY Under the watchful eye of a regional conservation group, an out-of-state energy company hopes to be drilling for natural gas southeast of Madras by year’s end. Like other potential natural gas facilities in the state, the Central Oregon proposal may pit California energy needs against Oregon land-use issues.
On March 13, Ohio-based Bass Energy and its partners won a Bureau of Land Management lease auction for oil and gas rights to roughly 9,000 acres in Jefferson County. It’s not certain that fossil fuels even exist in the area.
“It’s pure exploration,” says William Hlavin, president and CEO of the private company. “We could drill a dry hole and walk away with our tails between our legs.”
California’s demand for natural gas, and energy in general, says Hlavin, is what makes the risk financially worthwhile. Despite the uncertainty, the company’s own geological studies over the past five years suggest the possibility of natural gas deposits, says Hlavin. He declined to say how much money he estimates there is to be made.
The site lies within the Crooked River National Grasslands and is a critical habitat for mule deer and elk. That has the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association concerned over how a drilling operation would impact the local wildlife and environment.
“Our response will have to do with where they propose a site,” says executive director Brent Fenty. “We will certainly be watching.”
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