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Fight Over Oil & Gas Eminent Domain Bill Ongoing

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) - Oil and gas companies in Colorado are using a familiar tactic -- eminent domain -- to acquire mineral rights from homeowners and drill beneath homes. Right now, it's happening to hundreds of homeowners in Broomfield's Anthem and Legacy neighborhoods.

A legislative effort in Denver looks to give those homeowners more of a say in what happens.

Ann Byers owns a home in the area and called it "one of the most sought after in Broomfield." She's one of more than 1,500 homeowners who received a letter saying Extraction Oil and Gas, Inc. plans to drill 139 wells within a mile of each other in her neighborhood, despite the fact homeowners own most of the mineral rights and many don't want to sell or lease them.

ann byers
(credit: CBS)

"All they have to do is show you they offered you a lease and you didn't accept it," said Byers.

The practice is known as forced pooling. Under state law, even if one neighbor agrees to sell, an oil and gas company can drill the entire neighborhood. Byers calls that astonishing.

State Rep. Mike Foote, a Democrat, agrees. He introduced a bill that would require companies to obtain consent of a majority of homeowners to drill, not just one. It would also require that the process be more transparent.

mike foote
Rep. Mike Foote (D) Lafayette (credit: CBS)

"We go to the state right now and ask how many folks, non-consenting owners, how many people actually have been forced pooled. They can't tell us because the operator doesn't have to tell them. And they don't," said Foote.

Rep. Jon Becker, a Republican, opposes the idea, saying someone's neighbors shouldn't be able dictate whether they can sell their rights.

jon becker
(credit: CBS)

"We should not hamper access to property. ... We should hamper access, absolutely," said Becker.

Becker said the law is also meant to insure all mineral owners get paid. He says if your neighbor's property gets drilled, your minerals will likely, inadvertently, be extracted, too.

Byers will get $500 for her minerals, but she says the neighborhood's concern is safety. By law, mineral rights owners, whether they wanted to lease or not, are partially liable if there's an accident.


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