RESEARCH YOUR MINERAL RIGHTS
January 17, 2012 (thanks to Roz and Mary for this useful info!
Searching Titles to Find Out If You Own Your Mineral Rights
“A Citizen’s Guide to Title Searches: Who Else Has Ownership Interest in Your Land?” from Pennsylvania on the internet gives the basics of title searches. This was put out by a Pennsylvania watershed group.
To find out if you own your mineral rights or if someone else does, you first must have your legal description, located on your tax bill or on your title from when you bought your property. Next, if you have the abstract for your land, your job is much easier. The most important things in the abstract are the original patent on the land you own, the warranty deeds, quit claim deeds and tax sales. The original patent is the first transaction when the land was transferred by the federal government as part of a homestead or land grant. Various loans and mortgages taken out on the land and paid back are of lesser importance, do not typically reserve or except mineral rights, and are called Deeds of Trust.
The red flags to look for are the reservations and exceptions that reserve or except mineral rights to the seller at the time of a sale. This means that all or a percentage of the mineral rights did not pass to the new owner at the time the property was purchased.
If you do not have an abstract, you can go to the Department of the Interior BLM Office of General Land Records on the internet and search for the original patent on your land. You will need the exact description of your land.
Dotter Abstract in Walsenburg has a Chain of Title Index, and you can go to them to see what they would charge to help you find the previous owners of your property. If they have the book and page numbers from the courthouse recorded, you can then go to the courthouse and get copies of the pertinent documents without having to purchase an entire abstract. The people at the courthouse can help you find these on the computer if they are not too busy with other business, and they charge $.25/copy.
If there is no mention of mineral rights on your warranty deed, it does not necessarily means that you hold the mineral rights. Sometimes the warranty deed will expressly state that 100% of the mineral rights are being conveyed. It is also possible that some mineral rights were reserved in the past, and it is best to research if that is the case for your property.
The assessor has records of previously reserved mineral rights, where the mineral rights were severed from the surface rights. These records are somewhat reliable. They maintain plat books with the properties marked. S.M.R. designations mean “severed mineral rights.” If there are severed mineral rights, the owners should be being taxed, and that should be researchable at the assessor’s office.
Here is a form you can download and print (it's in .jpg format) to make tracking the title work and mineral rights easier:
Negotiate a Good Surface Use Agreement
(excerpted from Sandy's talk on Jan 21, 2012 -- full text under Huerfano Voices tab) As unfair as it seems, Shell actually does have the right to come onto your land to do seismic, but only if they have leased the mineral rights underneath your land and only if they have a permit from the COGCC. Also, according to current Colorado law, they need to work with you to minimize disturbance on your land, and you need to work with them to arrive at an agreement. You need not feel rushed into signing anything, but if any problems occur, you will need to be able to prove you were making that good faith effort to achieve a surface use agreement with them.
I am not an attorney and I cannot give you legal advice. But it is good advice for any of us, whether it’s on these surface use agreements, trespass by the seismic operators, spills, threats against your rights and livelihood – anything that happens – always always always document everything – who contacted you, when, what they said, what you told them, who was going to follow up and when etc – while it is fresh in your mind. Resist the temptation to talk it up with friends and neighbors until after you have written it all down!
Again, I am not an attorney and I cannot give you legal advice but if it were my land that the thumper truck drove up on, I would ask for proof, in writing, that they have both the mineral lease and the seismic permit. By proof I mean copies – for me to keep -- of the recorded mineral lease, the Form 20 and the map that they file with the COGCC. I would look at that map and be sure that my land is actually within the boundaries of their seismic permit.
If it isn’t the thumper but the land man come to call, I would take the surface use agreement they offer and make it very clear that I need more time to consult my attorney and to propose additional conditions. I would ask him to confirm that he understands my request -- “Do you understand that I need more time to consult with my attorney?” and get his agreement, and I would write all of that down, with the date, the name of the landman and how to get hold of him and his boss.
Then I would talk to an attorney, and spend some time thinking and writing down all the additional conditions that I want them to agree to in a revised surface use agreement. I would mark on a map of my property exactly where they are allowed to drive and where my home, water well, barn, springs, live water and ponds are. For shot hole seismic, they must keep 200 feet away from all these things, or more depending on the size of the charges. I would also want a written notice on my door 24 hours before they come onto my property and every time they come on my property. You may have other requirements.
We have two handouts here. The one from the Oil and Gas Accountability Project -- available here:
will give you more insight about surface use agreements, and the COGCC Rule 333 -- look under RULES at www.cogcc.state.co.us -- shows the rules and setbacks for shot hole seismic.
Get Your Water Rights -- Adjudicate Your Well
excerpted from Sandy's talk on Jan 21, 2012 -- full text under Huerfano Voices tab) Well adjudication is important for two reasons: (1) Shell is buying up water rights on the Huerfano to get the water they need for site preparation, drilling and fracking, and (2) these activities can reduce your water quantity and damage your water quality. It has already happened to Brett Corsentino, to people in River Ridge Ranch, and to many others over in Las Animas County along the Purgatoire and Apishipa Rivers, in Rifle and Silt and in Pavillion, Wyoming, and in Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia and around the world.
Here are the three main points:
1. You may have a well permit, a well completion report, and/or a well construction and test report -- but if you do not get your well adjudicated, you have no WATER RIGHTS, and thus no legal standing in Water Court to (1) protest changes of use by other water rights owners that could affect your well or (2) protest new adjudications and changes in ownership of existing water rights holders, (3) protest reductions in your water quantity or quality that you believe may be caused by the actions of other water rights owners. (Anyone can protest these things, but you have to have your water RIGHTS to get the court to consider conditions you may want imposed.)
2. Adjudication DOES NOT require augmentation! As long as your well pump is rated at or below 15 gallons per minute (gpm), and most domestic well pumps are, you do NOT have to file an augmentation plan.
3. It costs $250.00 and a trip to Pueblo’s Division 2 Water Court (Pueblo Co. Judicial Building, 320 West 10th Street, Pueblo CO 81003,Phone: 719-583-7011) to get the paper work stamped.
Watch the paper for your February workshops in La Veta and Gardner. At the workshops, we will help you fill out the paperwork, but you’ll need to bring your well permit, your well completion report and/or your well construction and test report. If you do not have any of these, you need to get them from Division 2 Water Court in Pueblo.
-- older posts below --
Huerfano County Courthouse (outside)
9 - 10 am
Please show up and support the efforts of Citizens for Huerfano County!
Bring signs or banners - the demonstration will last about one hour.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
People Power is vital to the effort of protecting La Veta and Huerfano County from destructive oil and gas development and fracking. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and elected County Commissioners have routinely ignored the concerns of hundreds of affected constituents. The Citizens for Huerfano County has filed a lawsuit against the COGCC and engaged a highly qualified legal and expert team, with a track record of success in helping other citizen groups protect their communities. Now, we need your help!
* WE NEED MONEY: You can make a secure online donation at http://www.huerfaNOfrack.com/ or mail a check written to “Huerfano Community Corporation/CHC” to: P.O. Box 1193, La Veta, CO 8105
* BECOME A MEMBER: If you haven’t already, join the growing grassroots Citizens for Huerfano County by sending your name, mailing address, phone and email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org (or our P.O. Box 1193, see above)
* VOLUNTEER: We need your energy, passion and expertise to help us watchdog the Klikus site development, develop our citizen monitoring program, and assist with media, outreach, fundraising, membership, a website and things we haven’t even thought of yet. Contact us today!
* SPREAD THE WORD: Tell your friends, family and neighbors about the threat oil and gas drilling and fracking pose to our quality of life, air and water, tourism-based economy and wildlife and let them know how they can help. Hold a neighborhood screening of Gasland, or Split Estate, two award nominated documentaries.
* SPEAK OUT: Contact your local, state and federal elected representatives. Send letters to your local and regional newspaper editors to build awareness of the imminent threat to our communities.