Making deals

Group learns basics about working with

John Allen isn't betting on the benevolence of oil and gas companies to look after his land if he decides to lease it out for development.

The cattle rancher of 30 years with a spread near Great Divide close to the Wyoming border likes his property the way it is. Yet, he'd be willing to strike a deal with some energy companies, if they can agree to uphold certain conditions. To make sure that happens, Allen doesn't talk to representatives of energy companies until his lawyers get involved.

"Water and fences are my prime concerns," Allen said. "That's very important to me."

Mary Ellen Denomy, a speaker at Saturday's Energy and the West Series, said Allen's reservations are right on target.

A certified public accountant working with energy royalties and a ranch manager at the 7,000-acre Savage Ranch in Rifle, Denomy knows a few things about dealing with energy companies. The Savage Ranch is riddled with gas wells.

"I have to keep an eye out financially and on the ground to see that they're not taking water from my hayfield," she said. "There's almost a philosophy among (energy companies) that they want to make it for themselves and not for the people providing minerals."

In response to an increase in oil and gas exploration in Moffat County recently, commissioners voted to increase the percentage the county makes from oil and gas development, said Jeff Comstock, director of the county's Department of Natural Resources.

The county requires energy companies to reimburse the county 16.67 percent of production assets. Comstock is the government designee to help the public work out conflicts with energy companies.

Following the county's lead financially is a good start when negotiating with energy companies, Denomy said.

Other guidelines include:

n Never sign on the first visit.

n Beware of sample forms brought by the industry.

n Keep detailed records of correspondence.

n Try to negotiate a fair agreement with compensation and reclamation mapped out.

n Propose development alternatives that don't parcel up land or discontinue its use.

n Inquire about infrastructure and facilities that may accompany development.

n Have an attorney review any agreement before signing.

There are more reasons for landowners to know their rights and liabilities, Denomy said during the workshop sponsored by the Western Colorado Congress.

"You can be dragged into a lawsuit if a company pollutes the water or makes a mess on your property," she said to the group of 10 at the West Routt Library. "We've got to remember we have the assets they want, and they'll be willing to negotiate for that."

The next workshop in the Energy and the West Series is to be announced.

For more information, call Christi Ruppe organizer of the Western Colorado Congress, at 879-6252.

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