Michelle Hale: Time for state to act

Recently, the Routt County Board of Commissioners put in place regulatory restrictions that effectively stop energy development in Routt County. That de facto ban likely goes against Colorado state law. But, there is an even more basic right that is being impinged by the actions of Routt County: the property rights of the mineral estate owner are being eliminated.

The established law of Colorado is that the surface rights are subservient to the subsurface rights. It is clear that some residents of Routt County do not agree with that approach. But, without such a system, traditional ideas of property are meaningless. The proper avenue to change the law would be through the state legislative process. But anti-energy advocates know they cannot even hope to get such a drastic change through the state Legislature. So, they go against state law and remove the property rights locally.

In this instance, the county is attempting to supercede the authority of the state, and it is the state that should take measures to uphold state property laws. Ultimately, this dispute is between two state actors — the county and the state. Resolving this dispute is important for all the residents of Colorado. Today, it is someone’s mineral rights being taken away by local fiat. Tomorrow, it will be something else, as local elected majorities change.  

If the state of Colorado does not actively protect all aspects of private property, all value in property eventually will be lost, and its economy will wither and die as even those few who choose to remain will not be spared from the incentive to take the property of another via the political process what they were unwilling to rightly pay the market price. Without enforceable property rights there will be no safe harbor from sheer, political brute force.  

Because this is a conflict between regulating bodies, it is inherent that those bodies resolve their differences — not foist the responsibility of a resolution upon private citizens. Gov. John Hickenlooper, acting through his attorney general, must intercede to bring order in Routt County.  

The residents of the state of Colorado deserve clear guidance on the nature of their property rights and the regulatory environment in Colorado. Without clear guidance, private investment dollars will leak to neighbor states that also enjoy enriching domestic energy resources. In the end, when property is taken by force through the political process instead of voluntary exchange in the marketplace, we all lose something.

Community comments

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(John Weibel) jweibel says...

So does the right to clean water take a back seat to extraction at any cost? Have not permits been issued since the imposition of this safeguard?

Posted 18 November 2012, 6:28 a.m. Suggest removal

(Fred Duckels) fredduckels says...

The environmentalists "a slick way to market left leaning ideologues" like Steve are using the local door to enact "clean water" rights but this is the Camels nose under the tent. The real goal is to eliminate drilling altogether. The property holders outside Steamboat have a right to cash out on land that they have held. Let the local do gooders tend to the property that they own. If drilling revenue starts to roll in, guess who will be first in line with a feel good proposal to empty the treasury.

Posted 18 November 2012, 8:39 a.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

I would venture to predict that:

Not ONE of these people
will spend ONE dollar of their own money
to buy ONE acre of the land
to obtain ONE bit of mineral rights
to hold down ONE moment of energy production
to keep ONE cubic foot of water cleaner
for not ONE of their kids or grandkids.

To them, THAT'S what the government is for.

Posted 18 November 2012, 8:49 a.m. Suggest removal

(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

How is there a de facto ban when the County is currently approving permits?

As for the conditions set by the county, State is fairly quickly moving to change their regulations to be much closer to the county's rules. I think it is logical to believe that State O&G commission didn't sue Routt County over the Quicksilver permit conditions because they saw a public relations disaster in fighting against groundwater testing. And so whatever they might win in court would be overridden by new state laws requiring groundwater testing.

State O&G commission is more worried about Longmont's laws that go way beyond Routt's and have strong popular support affirming their rules in the election. The industry is far more fearful of a possible statewide ballot measure than Routt County's rules. State would rather make Routt County the example of how to have reasonable rules rather than as an example of how the State is overriding local concerns.

Posted 18 November 2012, 10:51 a.m. Suggest removal

(Harry Thompson) shocked says...

Scott, I have not seen you at a single oil/county meeting. I would venture to say that you really don't really have the first idea what you are talking about. Quicksilver did not object to the concept of drilling water test wells. They objected to the unscientific, poorly thought of well that was proposed

Try going to the meetings and not getting your information from poorly written news articles.

Posted 18 November 2012, 1:14 p.m. Suggest removal

(Stuart Orzach) StuartOrzach says...

Ms. Hale's first sentence misrepresents the facts. The County has taken no regulatory action whatsoever. Routt County has only revised their template of conditions of approval. Commissioners have no legal obligation to attach these conditions to any SUP (Special Use Permit). I have noticed that many people who are participating in these Oil and Gas discussions have no idea what the difference is between a Regulation and a Condition of Approval.

Regarding Mr. Hartless's contention that citizen's are unwilling to pay to keep minerals in the ground or to preserve water quality, that is not true. The Thompson Divide Coalition has raised two and a half million dollars to buy out exploration leases on public land. But State law puts a hurdle in front of them. They must show that the land must be used in a "productive" manner, but does not define "productive".

Regarding Mr. Duckels' comment about so-called environmentalists sticking the proverbial "camel's nose under the tent", consider the following behavior by the O&G industry: In the case of the exploration leases that the Thompson Divide Coalition wants to buy out, the industry is now bringing legal action to get the State to "unitize" the leases. This means that if the industry proceeds with development on one leased parcel, all the other leases get extended. Otherwise, the other exploration leases would expire and be worthless.

Our Commissioners already bent over backwards once to accomodate Quicksilver Resources when they were in danger of having one of their leases expire due to no one's fault but their own.

Finally, regarding Ms. Hales assertion, in her fourth paragraph, that the State must protect all aspects of private property lest all value in property be lost, consider the following: At least one person's house and land in Milner has already been rendered unsalable, and therefore without value, due to the actions of Quicksilver Resources. When confronted with this sticky problem at a meeting, Quicksilver spokesperson Steve Lindsay had nothing useful to say. Keep in mind that the energy boom has not even begun here. We are in the exploration phase. How many people will experience diminished property values when there are thousands of wells?

While surface rights are subservient to mineral rights, there is also precedent in the law to encourage development of mineral resources prior to surface development. Since the mineral rights owners did not do this, they must now respect the rights of surface owners. The mineral rights that your grandfather may have bought at a tax lien sale are a highly speculative investment. If he wanted a guarantee of return, then he should have bought a Certificate of Deposit instead. Imagine how wealthy you would have been had he done so.

Posted 18 November 2012, 1:29 p.m. Suggest removal

(Michelle Hale) Chelley6 says...

The Constitution of the United States covers the rights of property owners loud and clear. I am not a lawyer, but I embrace the rights put in place for people of this nation. Thomas Jefferson when he drafted the Declaration of Independence, stated the issue simply: ‘‘Lives, Liberties, and Estates. James Madison, echoed those thoughts when he wrote that ‘‘as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.’’

James Madison, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson were are very clear in the belief that no one has the right to tell people who own their land how they can it. Madison said, people have ‘‘a property" in their rights. If the right to property did not entail the right of use, it would be an empty promise."

The notion of ‘‘intruding’’ on by state and local governments. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, properly understood and applied, those governments have no more right to violate the constitutional rights of citizens than the federal government has to intrude on the legitimate powers of state and local governments. Federalism is not a shield for local tyranny. It is a brake on tyranny, whatever its source. I do believe that this covers the over reach of the county and local citizens in effort to stop those who embrace oil and gas, and the right of "prosperity" of those who own the land.

The Liberal Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun said it well. "If one accepts the modern American credo that the government should not tell one how to live his life, and that the government cannot and should not legislate morality, or trample on personal rights." I don't know how much clearer it can be? Property, and the right to live ones life with out local, state, or federal government standing in the way of prosperity.
Fracking has been around since the 1940s. Millions of wells have been drilled, and less that one percent of that number has ever had water issues. Indian Valley in Rio Blanco County, known to the Native Americans as a place to winter. There was a place called the Pot Holes, a place where water burned. That was a "natural" event. Drilling has been in Routt County for a very long time. First well drilled was on the Carptener Ranch in the late 1800s. I might add, no Fracking needed because it was shallow surface oil, and close to the river.

Routt County, is my heritage I am generation six and a Grandmother. My Grandfather was a Roughneck and worked here in the 1900s, he died in 1946. My Dad graduated from Hayden in 1951 and was a Roughneck and a Coal Miner here in this area. In 1983 my husband, Roughnecked here two years drilling around Millner and Mt. Harris.They hit alot of oil. It was also one of the first directional drilling rigs in the area at that time. Nothing new. Routt County has ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT ENERGY. IT IS THE TAX BASE, its also needed in our nation right now.....UNTIL other energy can step forward.

Posted 18 November 2012, 5:23 p.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

Anyone driven from Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction recently?? especially at night... there are drilling rigs lighting up the sky evry1/4 mile or so all the way.... many are within plain eye sight of 70 which means the Colorado river directly below.... everyone should take a deep breath and look at all the implications... we all want energy independence, everyone has the right to use their property... but should it be at their neighbors expense???

Posted 18 November 2012, 5:44 p.m. Suggest removal

(Michelle Hale) Chelley6 says...

Yes, I have, I see those lights, and I see the chance of being independent away from the demands of foreign oil. IF this whole middle East thing gets out of control we could see gas prices from 8.00 to 10.00 a gallon. The effect on this nation would be breath taking, and change this nation as we know it. It could remove all hope of a better place for children. In the end, Children are our most valuable resource.

I also embrace Green Energy. Natural Gas IS a green energy, that is why you see drilling up and down I 70 a veiw of things to come. Natural Gas stations for cars and trucks. I support Wind, Solar for sure. But, what do we do in the meantime? Our electrical grid can not handle wind or solar because it is so antiquated. Yet congress will not pass a jobs bill that can help with this. Democrats push green energy, and I agree, but even in the end only 25% of our energy needs can ever come from Green energy and it will take 25 to 45 years to get there. UNLESS.....we embrace natural gas, and better ways to use oil, gas and coal. My way of thinking IS of my neighbor, my children, grandchildren and what we are handing over. Are we a nation dependent, or a nation independent.

For the record, I am a Democrat, and from a long line of them. I am one that supports the constitution, and privacy issues like abortion, and the rights to use ones land that serves them the best. When liberals wade in on this debate it looks as foolish as the GOP screaming less government unless it has to do with a womans body. Or, the need for jobs, and vote against a jobs bill or making this nation system better so it can embrace new technology. Or even better, embracing war and sending young men and women in harms way, but vote against any effort to help or support them. Bring them home. open the oil field, coal, and all green technology. Build something back up something worth handing over. For those of you that are going to say, but what about the water....I will add, and technology of cleaning and reuse of a all things. We are not locked into just business as usual, why not embrace what we have, and make it better and better???

The extreme of ideas are killing this nation. Time to back up, know that we share this place and there is more than one idea and one way of doing something to get to the same results. It takes work, the ability to look past preceptions, and beliefs to find that common area to work from. We can do it. Its as simple as stop buying in to so many forms of propaganda, and know we are all better than that.

Posted 19 November 2012, 9:52 a.m. Suggest removal

(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

So it looks like the most blatant opponent to drilling is the Town of Hayden. They say they don't care is a road and traffic study shows there is no harmful impacts. That they will ban drilling truck traffic regardless. And that drilling brings no serious economic benefit to Hayden.

"The extreme of ideas are killing this nation". Well, probably not because extremists rarely get their ideas approved. But those proposing extreme ideas never see them as extreme. They say their ideas are moral and so they do not have to consider the practical implications.

So moralists do not concern themselves with the practical implications or accept compromises. Depending upon how others think about the issues then they can easily be viewed as extremists. For issues like slavery it required extremists to end the immoral practice. Issues like worker safety were addressed by pragmatists that didn't seek to ban entire industries, but sought to reduce the dangers.

Shell says they can drill in Routt County. The nat gas trade group advertises that they support protecting the environment and groundwater testing. So Routt County hardly seems to be at the extreme at how it treats drilling. Routt County would appear to be taking a pragmatic approach allowing wells with the conditions testing groundwater and such to protect neighbors and the overall community from problems that have occurred elsewhere.

Thus, it would seem fair to ask if you are an extremist on these issues? I think a pragmatist concerned about the practical effects of the county's rules would focus on the unfair effects of a particular county rule and not be against all local rules when those rules are acceptable to Shell.

Posted 19 November 2012, 11:32 a.m. Suggest removal

(Michelle Hale) Chelley6 says...

My concern is one of history. I lived in Rio Blanco County, and saw the effects to the community when the bar kept getting raised for oil, and gas. It ended up no jobs, loosing homes, and ways of life. County Commissioners of Rio Blanco were NOT listening to the people, or working in a fair way with oil and gas. The Commissioner were concerned about "their" ranching, yet none of them from the Pienance Creek area. Ranchers in Pienance Creek appreciated Oil and Gas.

Rio Blanco added a Use Tax, and an Impact fee, and kept holding their hand out to oil and gas. Soon there was no work, no jobs, no money for the community, schools.The greed with the business community was shocking and wrong and was promoted by the actions of the county. Three different national networks reported the greed. This attitude shut down production. Then it dawned on the county that 78% of the tax base in Rio Blanco Country for the past 50 years was Oil and Gas. Much like the rest of North Western Colorado. Ranching was less that 1%. At one time Rio Blanco was the richest county in the State of Colorado, and one of the top five in the United States.

In the 80s, I felt the effects of shutting down Oil Shale. I had a construction company and was making a good living, until it was shut down over night. I was forced into bankruptcy, I lost everything like so many did. The day I when to bankruptcy court there were over 200 people there. We all felts broken, used,lied to, and forgotten. That made a profound effect on my perspective, and my actions to work for JOBS, and for people. We all work from personal space, and this is mine.

I dont see supporting Oil and Gas as extremist, but I do see over the top efforts that do not take into consideration of peoples personal rights, and private rights to pursue a life they see fit. I see extremist when it comes to the use of personal land, and water, and the need to defend ideas, and not embrace the science.

Routt is doing a good job, and I hope it gets better. Water testing in my eyes is being made more than what it needs to be. Having been in development for 30 years,. The logical thing to do, would be to have a outside company to test all water wells in the area. I say outside because there should be no agenda. Split the price with County and Oil companies, again to keep a level playing field. Get a baseline read, keep doing it once a week while drilling, and then every two or three months after the well is working for a preset time frame. I support Shell, and know that they are very concerned about community.

In the end its about have honest conversation without the name calling, finger pointing, fit tossing behavior that has been shown in the past. Life is about learning how to work with each other, not having everything on the left or right, but somewhere in the middle.

Posted 21 November 2012, 6:59 a.m. Suggest removal

(Michelle Hale) Chelley6 says...

Oh, and for some of you who may not know this. Facking has been done for municipal waters all over this nation. It just goes to show that some people would prefer to embrace what they THINK they know to be true.

Posted 2 December 2012, 6:31 p.m. Suggest removal

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