Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How With Stealth the Well is Won!

Residents who do not own their mineral rights, but who will be directly affected by the drilling near their homes, are kept in the dark for a long time after the first steps to drill have been taken by the stake holders. Take a look at how this process of planning a well site (and getting it approved with minimal interference from residents) works! In Greeley's 2020 Comprehensive Plan it states:
"Advise residents of rezoning and development applications in areas close to their homes and encourage citizen participation in the public review process to express support or concern for a given project in an informed and constructive manner. Encourage developers to work with area residents early in the development of a land use proposal to identify concerns, incorporate suggestions, and provide accurate information on the scope of an intended land use request." ~ LU2.18 Page 191

In the case of the (Fox Run) Sheep Draw Directional Drilling Project, that did not happen!  The location for the 'proposed well head' was staked out and photographed on February 17, 2012. The 2A application was filed with COGCC four days later, on February 21st.  So, when do you think the Fox Run residents were notified? A full year later!

[A similar situation happened with the Kelly Farm permit to put 12 additional wells with 20 condensate tanks near Northridge H.S. A lease was signed on July 21, 2011 between the Kelly Farm Home Owner Association and Waltel Minerals, LLC . That's almost two years before people in the vicinity were notified! Read more here: Kelly Farm]

Says resident Karen Janata:
"On February 26, 2013, I received the letter from Greeley City planner, Brandon Gossard, attached in an email from our Home Owners Association. It was the first I had heard of this!"

The letter stated that the city,

"received a formal application from Mineral Resources, Inc. for approval of a Use By Special Review to allow up to twenty-three Oil & Gas wells on a property located north of 13th Street between 59th and 65th Avenues..Due to the nature of the surrounding area, a neighborhood meeting has been scheduled prior to the scheduling of a public hearing with Planning Commission.
This neighborhood meeting will be planned on Thursday, February 28th at 6:00 pm at the Family Fun Plex...No formal decisions about the project are made by the City of Greeley at the neighborhood meeting....Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider the request".
Karen says: "As you can see, we received the notification 2 days prior to this meeting. It was held at the FunPlex in a small room where there was standing room only. Mineral Resources had colored, professional, diagrams of "how beautiful" the area would look with trees/fences etc. We were assured that the fracking would be state of the art and no health risks.

Several people brought up their concerns but of course, Mineral Resources either said they didn't have the necessary statistics or gave vague answers. [City Planners] Brad Mueller and Brandon Gossard were there to represent Greeley and answer questions. I remember one young mom leaving the meeting at the end and crying.

Bob Winkler [see: Frack Files on Facebook] told me at the time that this would be a major impact on us all. Many asked why we were never notified of this meeting -- only through the Home Owners Association. Brandon said they only had to notify homeowners within 350 feet. He then took all of our email addresses.

I received an email stating there would be a planning commission with public hearing on March 12 at 1:15 pm. We had just about 2 weeks to gather information and learn more about this industrial site. Several neighbors started to go door-to-door to get people involved and to attend this hearing. However, with only 2 weeks and having the meeting in the afternoon of a work-day, we only had about 30 people at the meeting.

Also at this time, ..[a neighbor] had contacted Matt Sura, a lawyer to ask for assistance. By a slim margin, the planning commission agreed to postpone their final decision on this project for 2 weeks. Mineral Resources was asked to meet with residents to address their concerns. Matt Sura also began meeting with Mineral Resources to get the site moved to behind King Soopers [on west 10th street], where there are wells already. I myself began researching more and more about the process, accumulating all of the data on spills for a 60 day period.

The Planning Commission approved the Fox Run/Sheep Draw project on March 12 despite the many, many pages of documentation sent to them, and despite all the comments of those who attended. It was agreed upon by Fox Run residents to appeal this decision to the City Council and our appeal was delivered and paid for ($200.00).

Of note: Even though drilling companies are required to adhere to specific setbacks, waivers can be given by nearby property owners. In the Fox Run case one such party even agreed to a setback of only 40 ft to her property line instead of the required 150 (signed May, 2011) See all 15 under: Waiver Exhibit.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Sign or Not to Sign a Mineral Lease.

If you are a homeowner who received a letter from 
Mineral Resources with the request to lease your mineral rights for their next horizontal drilling and fracking project, you may want to read what attorney Matt Sura has to share on the subject. 

As a service to the community, Weld Air and Water hosted a presentation by Sura who on Saturday gave an overview of the dangers of fracking near homes and schools, and explained what options people have. Here some key points. You can download two fact sheets by clicking here.
Forced pooling is often threatened by landmen to persuade reluctant mineral owners to lease their minerals. But the threat of forced pooling should not be used to pressure a mineral owner to hastily sign a lease. Forced pooling is only used as a last resort for operators who have already acquired leases to the vast majority of acreage they are planning to develop. In 2010, the COGCC received 62 forced pooling applications. Operators want to avoid the additional time and expense of going through the COGCC process to force pool a mineral owner.  
..Once the drilling unit has been established, an affected mineral owner, who has not leased his minerals, has four different options: He can choose to sell his minerals, lease his minerals, consent to voluntarily pool his mineral interest with the others and participate (financially) in the drilling operation, or be a “non-consenting” owner and be “force pooled”
If the COGCC issues a force pooling order, there are four consequences for the non-consenting owner; 
1) oil and gas operations in that drilling unit are allowed to proceed, 
2) the mineral owner will get a 1/8 (12.5%) royalty payment, 
3) the other 7/8 of the mineral interest payments are withheld to pay-off the costs of the well (plus penalties), 
4) if the mineral owner owns 100% of the minerals under a parcel of land, the operator will not be able to locate the well or facilities on that parcel.

Note that, "Mineral owners who are forced pooled will still receive a 12.5% royalty interest", but the total amount will likely be less than if a lease was negotiated and signed voluntarily. That is because royalties will not be paid until costs have been recouped and by then the production of the well may have declined. But, if (like me and many others) you find the practice of drilling and fracking inside a city reprehensible, this option is the only moral one. Signing the lease is really condoning the practice.

Note also that as the mineral right owner (and you do want to lease) you (especially when joining with many of your neighbors) can request mitigations that will help reduce pollution, noise etc. which is not only beneficial for the people directly affected by the drilling process, but for our whole community! If you want to know more about how to negotiate your lease, please contact Weld Air and Water.

With enough interest, a follow-up meeting with Matt Sura will be planned, so also let your neighbors know about this opportunity! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Four Colorado Cities Ban Fracking!

Voters in Broomfield, Colorado, narrowly approved a five-year moratorium on fracking in their suburban community, after a recount by county officials found the measure had passed by 17 votes out of 20,683 cast. ..Because of the close results, a mandatory recount likely will occur.

[Read latest: Recount is delayed indefinitely:]

Four Colorado Home Rule Municipalities, (Ft. Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield) used their Colorado Constitutional powers under Art. XX, Sec. 6, to reject hydraulic fracturing.

Governor Hickenlooper, the COGA and the COGCC must now motion to the state court in Boulder County for "joinder" of Ft. Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield as co-defendants with Longmont in the lawsuit over COGCC "PREEMPTION". Should Hickenlooper not motion for joinder, then Longmont could motion for dismissal under the 14th Amendment Clause of "Equal Protection Under The Laws".

To single out Longmont and not sue the other four municipalities, would be "discriminatory against Longmont and unconstitutional". We are methodically moving forward to obtain competent legal counsel to represent We the People of Colorado in Federal District Court in Denver to challenge the constitutionality of the COGCC.

 Please sign and share this petition: (Click on the title)
"The COLORADO OIL & GAS ASSOCIATION (COGA) (a private trade organization) has sued the City of Longmont, Colorado (a home rule city) and its citizens for exercising their constitutionally authorized powers to halt fracking inside their City Limits. Governor Hickenlooper has threatened to sue any other Colorado city or town who dares to follow Longmont. Governor Hickenlooper is guilty of the acts and omissions of "Constitutional Torts" and must be made to answer to We the People of Colorado, (the Sovereign), in Federal District Court in Denver."
Carl L. Mc Williams
Lead Representative Plaintiff
 A Federal Class Action "Under Construction"

 Informative videos:
Broomfield Mothers Take On Colorado Oil & Gas  (2:16 min.)
Oil & Gas drilling in Garfield County (6:32 min.)
The New Shale Rush - USA (19:38 min.) 
Celebrities ask Gov. Hickenlooper to ban fracking (0:30 min.)