Curry to introduce bill clarifying oil/gas rules

A Gunnison state lawmaker plans to run legislation this year that would allow the owners of subsurface minerals to develop their assets even when a landowner might refuse to comply with rules from state regulators.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said the way the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission wrote its recently released energy rules, it is “unclear” if a landowner can refuse to comply with wildlife protection standards and stop oil and gas production.

“There’s a feeling that a surface landowner could trump the development of the mineral right because he or she could refuse to work with the oil and gas commission,” Curry said.

She said her bill will allow mineral right owners to develop their property even when they agree to work with the Division of Wildlife to protect wildlife habitat.

“They’re almost there in the rules, but they left it in a way that is still open to interpretation,” Curry said. “I don’t think the executive branch through rule-making should be making determinations on property rights.”

During a Monday committee hearing, Ken Wonstolen, legal counsel for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, highlighted the need for legislation such as Curry’s bill.

“We need some clarification on that,” Wonstolen said.

Mary Ellen Denomy, president of the National Association of Royalty Owners, said when a surface owner prevents a mineral owner from developing the natural gas, that constitutes a “taking” or theft of private property.

Anything that can be done to clear up this regulatory confusion, she said, is a good thing.

Curry’s bill could be introduced as early as Wednesday when the Legislature opens its 2009 session.


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