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Testimony in Broomfield Forced-pooling Lawsuit to Wrap Up This Week

February 12, 2019
Colorado Rising Director Joe Salazar is shown in March 2017 when he was a state representative from Thornton. Colorado Rising has filed a lawsuit on behalf of some Broomfield residents to challenge forced pooling.

Testimony in a forced pooling lawsuit will continue Tuesday in a Denver court as Broomfield residents seek a temporary restraining order against Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc.

The hearing began Friday afternoon in the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse, 901 19th Street in Denver.

In January, Colorado Rising — on behalf of the Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee — filed a lawsuit against the state, and specifically the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, challenging the act of forced pooling. The Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee members are made up of Broomfield residents who were “astonished” to learn in June 2016 that they were mineral owners who could be forced by the state to lease their minerals to Extraction.

The Denver-based company plans to eventually drill 84 wells in Broomfield.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 23, seeks to temporarily halt the process and challenges the constitutionality of the forced pooling provision of the Colorado Oil and Gas Act.

Judge Brooke Jackson will continue to hear testimony through Tuesday afternoon.

Jean Lim, a Broomfield resident and member of Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee, said the seating area in the courtroom was largely filled with about 50 members and supporters of committee from Broomfield and other impacted Front Range neighborhoods.

The temporary restraining order asks that COGCC refrain from pooling any non-consenting owner’s minerals until the constitutionality of the act is resolved.

On Feb. 9, Broomfield officials announced on the city’s oil and gas web page that Extraction is scheduled to begin construction on the Livingston Pad Tuesday. The Livingston Pad is south of the Northwest Parkway, west of Lowell Boulevard and northwest of Sheridan Parkway.

Attorneys for Wildgrass residents were Colorado Rising Director Joe Salazar and Dan Leftwich of MindDrive Legal Services, LLC.

Extraction spokesman Brian Cain declined to comment on whether a representative was present at the hearing, but residents in attendance said no one identified themselves as an attorney for the company.

Salazar and Leftwich called three mineral owners, including Wildgrass resident Mark Linder, to testify about the situation they face in Wildgrass and concern for the safety of the neighborhood.

Linder, who has lived in Wildgrass for more than four years, testified about the “unfairness” of the situation.

“I’m being forced into a business relationship with a company I didn’t want to be associated with,” he said. “I’m being forced into a business relationship with a company that I didn’t think was viable.”

Linder also took issue with language in the lease letter that he felt was “terse” when describing the terms, and then included what the penalty would be if he did not accept the offer, citing the state’s forced pooling law.

While doing independent research, he found instances of mineral rights owners who were forced pooled getting “very little in terms of royalties,” including a photo of a man who got a check for 10 cents.

As a lawyer, he spent significant time talking about contract law and how he believes contracts are valid if there is a “meeting of the minds” and equal bargaining power. Because of the current forced pooling law, residents have none.

“I said that I thought the deck was completely stacked,” in the company’s favor, Linder said. “The fact that a lease is presented does not really mean that someone is being negotiated with.”

He plans on attending Tuesday’s hearing to listen to more testimony from the plaintiff and the state.

Jennifer Rios: 303-473-1361, riosj@broomfieldenterprise.com or Twitter.com/Jennifer_Rios

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