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7-26-2014 I want to bring to your attention something that EVERY PERSON IN THE STATE OF IDAHO NEEDS TO BE AWARE OF!
My name is Alma Hasse and I am a Payette County landowner, farmer and business owner.
I have been actively researching oil and gas development around the country for nearly three years now. I am GREATLY concerned what's happening here in Southwestern Idaho.
Most egregious of all are the draft rules that the Idaho Dept. of Lands just finished "negotiating" Think you have private property rights in Idaho? THINK AGAIN!
Before I go into detail on what's happening RIGHT NOW with the draft rules, I need to explain a couple of things that most people in Idaho are completely unaware of.
1. We have a LOT of "split" estates in Idaho. A "split" estate is where the mineral rights have-- at some point in time-- been severed from the "surface' estate.
2. Most people assume-- incorrectly-- that they own both their surface and mineral rights if there's no mention of the mineral rights being reserved or severed on their policy of title insurance when they originally purchased their property.
Idaho does NOT require disclosure if the mineral rights have been severed from the surface estate! There are THOUSANDS of Idahoans who believe they own their mineral rights, when in fact they are owned by the State of Idaho, the federal government, or a private party/mineral rights investor.
This is an EXTREMELY important material fact! Here's why:
Once an oil and gas company has leased 55% of the MINERAL RIGHTS in a section (a section is 640 acres), that company can then file an application with the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (IOGCC) to "integrate" (some states call it forced pooling) the remaining mineral rights owners in that section.
Consider this: In case your readers are unaware, the IOGCC was "modified" in 2013. It is now AN APPOINTED BODY. Formerly it was comprised of Land Board members, all elected officials.
Here's what the "integration" process looks like, and I'll use myself as an example:
I own 40 acres. I also own the 40 acres of mineral rights underlying my farm, where my husband and I grow certified, weed free hay (certified to the North American standards, meaning you can pack our hay into any national park in the US or Canada).
Let's say that Alta Mesa leases-- at auction-- state-owned mineral rights underlying 375 acres (approximately 59% of the mineral rights in my section). All of my neighbors (some of whom have 20, 30, and 40 acre parcels, others who have smaller acreages) refuse to lease their mineral rights to Alta Mesa. One of Alta Mesa's attorneys, John Pieserich (who is also a registered lobbyist for Halliburton), petitions the IOGCC to "integrate" me and all of my neighbors in our section (let's assume that they all own their mineral rights).
A hearing officer is appointed by the IOGCC. This person usually has close ties to industry. The hearing officer does NOT have to allow ANY type of discovery! This is not your traditional justice system protocol. The hearing officer is NOT an elected judge, nor is there a jury of your peers.
At the "hearing" to "integrate" me and my neighbors, Pieserich submits evidence to the IOGCC that states Alta Mesa MUST have me and my neighbors mineral rights "integrated". The hearing officer does NOT have to let me or my neighbors see the evidence Pieserich presents to the board-- meaning that the hearing officer does not have to allow discovery-- nor does he have to allow me and my neighbors to bring in our own experts!
If the IOGCC approves Alta Mesa's petition, me and my neighbors have three choices:
1) Contribute contribute to the cost of the well, along with any infrastructure necessary and share profits from the sale of the gas. You also share the same risks as Alta Mesa. This is referred to as a Working Interest Owner;
2) Don't pay for the well and receive a state-mandated minimum royalty payment-- not to exceed an one-eight, and share the gas profits after a 300% "risk aversion" penalty is subtracted. This is referred to as a Non-Consenting Working Interest Owner;
3) If me and my neighbors choose none of above two options, we are "deemed leased" and are classified as a Non-Consenting Working Interest Owner. Opting out is not a possibility.
Since me and my neighbors have now been "deemed leased" (I prefer the term damned leased), we have no say so what happens to the minerals underlying our properties! We also may have no say so if Alta Mesa wants to put a gas or oil well (or a tank farm, or a pipeline, or a waste pit full of toxic, possibly radioactive wastewater) on our properties!
Let's say I want the minerals underlying my 40 acre farm to remain in the ground right now because the price of natural gas is currently in the basement and I feel that they will be worth WAY more in a dozen years or so. Not an option. Or, I want my minerals to be a college education for my three year old granddaughter, should she decide she wants to go to Harvard Medical School. Not an option.
Does this sound like a fair and equitable process to you? It sounds downright un-American to me!
Here's a link to the Idaho Dept. of Lands website on the draft "negotiated" rule-making on the Rules Governing Oil and Gas Production in the State of Idaho. Comments are due on the draft rules by August 1, 2014.
I would encourage EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOUR READERS to familiarize themselves with these rules and provide comment. We are currently working on a set of broad-ranging comments that will address the rules as a whole. Once they are completed (our goal is to have them finished no later than Wednesday, July 30th), we will make them available to anyone who would like a copy.
I would also invite your readers to visit our Facebook page, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction-- IRAGE-- for the most up to date information. We are also working on a Don't Frack Idaho website, which we hope to have up and running in the next couple of weeks.
I can be reached at [email protected]
PS, I would also invite everyone reading this to look at the Uniform Deed of Trust you signed when you purchased/refinanced your property. Look for the paragraph entitled Hazardous Substances. This paragraph states that you cannot do anything that could cause contamination or degradation to your property.
The very next paragraph is entitled Accleration: Remedies. If you do anything that causes contamination or degradation, the lender can find you in default and call for complete payoff of your loan! Should you not be in a position to pay your loan off (and I don't know too many people who could), they can then foreclose on you!
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