Booklet helps landowners understand their rights | PostIndependent.com

Booklet helps landowners understand their rights

Dennis Webb

What if you were told tomorrow that a company plans to drill for natural gas on your property?Would you know your rights? Would you know how to go about negotiating a surface-use agreement with the company?Would you know whom to contact with questions and concerns about the company’s drilling plans?Do you know right now how to find out whether you own the mineral rights beneath your property – and if you don’t, who does?The 2,000-member Western Colorado Congress citizens group is used to getting these kinds of questions from the public. Now, it has put together the answers in a booklet form.The WCC has mailed a 10-page manual called “Your Land, Your Rights” to more than 7,000 landowners in Garfield, Rio Blanco and Delta counties. The WCC had identified a need for more information among residents in those counties. Drilling already is heavy in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, and exploratory drilling is causing concern among Delta County residents.The environmental group hopes to arm area residents with education as they face the possibility of natural gas drilling in their back yards.The manual covers such topics as what state and federal laws apply to surface owners, and how to document the condition of your property before drilling. Documentation of pre-drilling conditions is advised because landowners are entitled to compensation for unreasonable property damages due to drilling.The manual is full of other tidbits landowners might not be aware of, such as:• Energy companies usually offer some financial compensation for using your property, even if you own no mineral rights beneath the property.• The WCC can provide model surface-use agreements for use by landowners in negotiations with energy companies.• Direct notification of surface owners typically does not occur when state or federal minerals are leased. However, notification is required prior to drilling beginning.”Often when a gas company approaches a landowner about drilling on their property, it’s like being asked to play a complicated board game,” Peggy Utesch, a WCC member who lives south of Silt, said in a news release from the organization. “Our intention in creating this booklet is to give landowners a tool – some basic information on surface and mineral leasing that helps them to understand the process and their rights under the law.”WCC is sending out the guides for free.”If you find it valuable, we welcome your contributions and membership support,” it says in a letter to landowners that accompanies the manual, along with a reply envelope.The WCC plans to continue its educational efforts on other fronts, such as providing workshops for landowners, and a training session for attorneys on protecting surface owners during negotiations with gas companies.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.comFind out moreThe Western Colorado Congress field office in Grand Junction may be reached at 970-256-7650. Or visit http://www.wccongress.org.


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