HB 1164: Republicans kill disclosure bill

Photo by Grig courtesy of sxc.huIt should have been a “no-brainer.” But in a Republican controlled Colorado House, it’s a no-brainer by a different definition.

Believing that oil and gas drilling was about “grasshoppers” out in the middle of fields, the public has been blinded-sided by the sudden and horrendous prospect that heavy industrial drilling activities may come to their backyard — in some cases, literally.

The vast majority of urban and suburban homeowners have never thought to investigate whether or not there were minerals under their homes, much less severed mineral rights. Severed rights refers to mineral rights owned by an entity other than the surface owner. If you own a home you are the surface rights owner, but you may not be the mineral rights owner. That’s right; someone else may have a claim to what you thought was your property and your property alone.

Colorado Representative Marsha Looper introduced HB12-1164. Looper is a Republican, but that didn’t help her one iota in the Judiciary Committee who heard her bill. Looper represents House District 19, El Paso County.

El Paso County was one of the counties that tried to exercise some control over oil and gas drilling in its jurisdiction, only to receive a letter from Jake Matters in Attorney General John Suthers’ (R) office threatening litigation if they didn’t back off. And they did.

Looper’s bill would simply have required disclosure of severed mineral rights.

According to Colorado Capitol Watch:

Beginning in 2013, listing contracts, contracts of sale, and sellers’ property disclosures for real estate must include a notice regarding whether the mineral estate has been severed from the surface estate and a surface owner’s right of first refusal to purchase the mineral estate when the taxes on the mineral estate have not been paid. The seller must provide to the buyer a copy of each instrument that severed the mineral estate, the name and contact information of the owner of the mineral estate, and the name and contact information of any known current lessees of the mineral estate, if that information is available. The seller must also indicate whether mineral exploration or development on the real property is or will be using water that would otherwise be available to the buyer as an incident of ownership of the real property.

The vote to defeat the bill (postpone indefinitely) wasn’t entirely along party lines; one Democrat, Daniel Kagan, joined his Republican counterparts to kill common sense legislation. In any event, it made no difference.

Rick Blotter, an Elbert County resident, writes of his experience testifying on behalf of HB 1164 and of his severed rights situation. His recount of the lack of attention paid by some Republican committee members mirrors that of what Longmont citizens observed when they testified in support of HD 12 Representative Matt Jones’ bill on local government authority in the area of oil and gas drilling (HB12-1277).

It seems these representatives walk in the door carrying the interest of the oil and gas industry in their heads and in their campaign accounts. The evidence abounds in this the Second Regular Session of the Sixty-eighth General Assembly of the State of Colorado.

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