Court: CDOT doesn’t own mineral rights
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Colorado Court of Appeals said last week the Colorado Department of Transportation does not own mineral rights underneath land CDOT condemned to build Interstate 70 through Garfield County.
The Colorado Department of Highways, a predecessor to the Colorado Department of Transportation, filed for condemnation in 1975 against Agnes Hunt for land between Silt and Rifle to build I-70. Hunt was awarded compensation and CDOT finalized the condemnation in 1987. A court order did not mention subsurface mineral rights, according to a Court of Appeals opinion.
Gypsum Ranch acquired Hunt’s property in 2000. In late 2006, the group sued CDOT and Antero Resources Corp., alleging that CDOT acquired only a right of way across the land and a right for “subsurface support” for highway improvements. They argued CDOT did not have a right to any oil and gas underneath. Gypsum Ranch’s principals include Scott Balcomb, of Glenwood Springs law firm Balcomb and Green.
In 2008, CDOT won a court ruling saying it did own the oil and gas, and Gypsum Ranch did not deserve to get any royalties from it. Gypsum Ranch appealed the decision, arguing that CDOT obtained only a surface easement and the lower court made some legal errors, including an error equating gravel rights with mineral rights. Gravel rights and their value were the subject of dispute between Hunt and CDOT during the condemnation proceedings.
“CDOH/CDOT did not have the authority to take title to the mineral interest by means of condemnation,” a Court of Appeals judge said in an April 16 opinion. The opinion reverses the 2008 judgment from Garfield County and sends the case back for “further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
CDOT had argued it was entitled to the oil and gas under the right of way unless reserved by the owner, and Hunt had raised no objection to CDOT taking the mineral estate. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office had argued in support of CDOT’s position.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
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