Impacted Resident Testimony

Mineral lease: An unwelcome Christmas present

by

Guy and Kathy M sitting in front of windowOur loss was predictable: David wins over Goliath only in the movies. But two years and 1000 volunteer hours ago, the choice to enter into a lawsuit to protect our health didn’t seem like a choice as much as a moral imperative. 500 feet from my neighbors’ houses was too close. That the scientific studies hadn’t proved causality over correlation to the satisfaction of the oil and gas industry didn’t matter. The logic to us was clear—if fracking causes heightened emissions of VOCs, and those same VOCs cause cancer, premature births, and a host of other ills, then 500 feet was too close. It was two years before we were (mostly) done: 64 hours I had to take off work without pay, over $20,000 raised, and over $3,000 donated personally (not counting labor) on a teacher’s salary.

Our experience with Forced Pooling was an unwelcome Christmas present. We received a certified packet from an extraction company (Grizzly Petroleum) on the 8th of December that from what we could decipher indicated that there would be drilling occurring under our property. The packet’s content was very difficult to understand; its complex legal language seemed to purposely obscure its meaning and our options.

We understood just enough to suffer a lot of anxiety going into the holidays: there was going to be drilling occurring under our property, which is in town and on a golf course, and we could agree to the terms outlined in the extraction company’s offer or we would be forced to become a legally liable partner in the drilling. ”

We understood just enough to suffer a lot of anxiety going into the holidays: there was going to be drilling occurring under our property, which is in town and on a golf course, and we could agree to the terms outlined in the extraction company’s offer or we would be forced to become a legally liable partner in the drilling. The letter gave us 35 days to decide which of those two unsatisfactory conditions to choose from.

Thirty calendar days with a couple of weeks where no one was around due to the holidays. We were confused, frightened and angry. We checked with our neighbors and learned that they had also received the same notification packets.

People did not know if we should hire a lawyer or ignore the demand. Through social media our neighborhood organized a community meeting to discuss the situation. As a result, our neighborhood combined our resources and hired an attorney experienced in oil and gas leases to represent our interests. Even though the landowners in our neighborhood owned all or part of the mineral rights for our properties, we were informed we had no choice in the matter of fracking and drilling our properties. If just one landowner agreed, then Colorado law says everyone must participate either as a lessor, as willing partner in the drilling operation or as a non-consenting partner, which carries with it greatly reduced royalties until the well is profitable and the threat of significant liability if something goes wrong with the drilling project.

In the end, we agreed to accept the offer that our attorney negotiated with the extraction company, which was for a significantly higher royalty than originally offered. We found the entire leasing/forced pooling process to be very exploitive.

We also became active in oil and gas discussions at the Colorado State House. Kathy has also testified regarding our Forced Pooling experience before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and we have voiced our support for recommended changes to the notifications, the language in the notifications and the time associated with intention to lease and Force Pool mineral rights. We need more people who are willing to make their voices heard and demand a more equitable process for determining where drilling can and cannot occur.

Guy & Kathy M., Windsor, CO