Earlier this month a judge in district court in Denver issued a ruling stating that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, or COGCC, must take up the issue of forced pooling at its meeting on March 11th. The ruling arrived during a hearing on a lawsuit brought by several residents in Broomfield, who have asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to block fracking near their residences.
Joe Salazar, former state representative and current Executive Director of Colorado Rising who represented the Broomfield residents in court, says that the judge’s ruling will force the COGCC to address forced pooling, something it has been reluctant to do in the past. “And as we know through the history of the forced pooling case and from the COGCC, that hearing has been postponed multiple times, and while those hearings are postponed, Extraction Oil and Gas, they continue to begin preparations for drilling that area without the hearing taking place.”
The COGCC has also been ordered to address issues of concern that have been raised by the residents of Broomfield and Colorado Rising. These range from issues of health safety and welfare to the economics and financial viability of extraction. The judge has left the date of March 26th open to go back to federal court if the COGCC refuses his order.
Salazar says forced pooling is a way that the oil and gas industry can make unwilling mineral rights owners sell or lease. “So let’s imagine you have one hundred mineral rights owners, and they all are situated in a neighborhood, say for example Wildgrass, and one owner says ‘you know what, I want the oil and gas operators such as Extraction to come in and harvest my minerals.’ Well the moment that Extraction gets their foothold into that neighborhood, they can go to the other ninety-nine landowners and say ‘hey, you have minerals and we want to harvest your minerals.’ And even if all ninety-nine of them say ‘no, we don’t want our minerals harvested, we don’t like the industry, we don’t like the effects on health safety and welfare’, whatever the objection is to, let’s say Extraction, Extraction can say ‘well, you know what? I’m gonna give you a lease, i’m gonna develop terms based on what I think is good for you, and if you don’t accept it, then we’re not only going to take your minerals, but we’re going to issue a penalty against you, because state law allows us to do that.”
On Monday February 11th, Salazar submitted a brief to the federal court explaining that there are courts across the nation that are striking down the use of forced pooling on shale deposits, due to the fact that they don’t apply to the rule of capture. The rule of capture states that if oil flows under multiple people’s properties and if the oil is captured, all those who own a property over where it flows will be able to profit off of it.
According to Salazar, over one thousand people are being affected by forced pooling in just one Broomfield neighborhood.