With the clock ticking on an end-of-year deadline, a regional unit of the national Trust for Public Land (TPL) said Friday it is short the full $8.75 million it needs to meet a commitment to Plains Exploration and Production Co. (PXP) to acquire and retire oil and natural gas leases in the Wyoming Range.

More than $8 million had been raised early in December, but Deb Love, director for the Trust’s Northern Rockies chapter, told local news media last week she didn’t have a specific number for how much was still needed.

PXP, which is an exploration and production (E&P) company in California’s Monterey Shale and other areas of that state, earlier in the year abandoned plans to drill in western Wyoming, agreeing instead to sell the company’s oil and natural gas leases on 58,000 acres in the Hoback Basin of the Wyoming Range to the conservation group (see Daily GPI, Oct. 9).

Some in the environmental and energy sectors were looking at this deal as historic and a possible model for future conservation agreements. TPL agreed to pay $8.75 million for Houston-based PXP’s leases, which effectively ended the E&P company’s plans to drill 136 gas wells near the Hoback River headwaters.

At the time, TPL had raised about $4.5 million toward the purchase and expected to have the full amount ready when the transaction was set to close at the end of December.

A Wyoming law, the Range Legacy Act, prohibits oil and gas development on 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range paralleling the state’s western boundary with Idaho. Nearly 85% of the acreage involved in the PXP leases lies within the area protected by the law.

At the beginning of December, Love told news media that TPL was still $3 million short, but that has apparently been whittled down to less than $1 million.

TPL’s website has said if the fundraising goal is not met, collected donations of $10,000 or less will be directed to support the Trust’s ongoing work in Wyoming. If the effort is successful, the leases will be retired.

“TPL has made a down payment to secure the leases from PXP,” according to the Trust website, which said the agreement with the E&P company is “binding and subject to our fund-raising deadline [Monday].”

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