Senate bill would restore mineral rights to owners for government regulation | CraigDailyPress.com

Senate bill would restore mineral rights to owners for government regulation

Janelle O'Dea

— A Senate bill that's moving through the Colorado Senate chamber could give some Moffat County residents who own mineral rights a sigh of relief.

Senate Bill 15-093 passed its third reading in the Senate on Feb. 24. It would allow property owners with mineral rights to obtain compensation if local governments enact ordinances limiting mineral development.

Specifically, the bill reads:

"Whenever a local government adopts or implements an ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, or other form of official policy concerning mineral extraction operations that has the effect of reducing the fair market value of the owner’s mineral interest by at least 60 percent, the bill specifies that the owner’s interest is deemed to have been taken for a public use."

The bill also requires the local government to reimburse the owners for the "full diminution in the fair market value." There are certain stipulations on both the property owner and government ends of the agreement, including requiring property owners to notify their local government 63 days or sooner of plans for mineral development.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, wrote and sponsored the bill and said he wrote it because he believes protecting property rights is of the utmost importance.

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Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid also thinks protecting property rights are an integral part of democracy, but he said he's got mixed feelings about the bill.

"I think if something that you own loses value because of something the government does, regardless of the level, you should be able to have some recourse there and be made whole," Kinkaid said. "This bill would really have a chilling affect on some things counties do."

Kinkaid said beyond bans on hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking," the bill could affect zoning decisions made by county commissioners.

The cost could end up falling on taxpayers, and that worries Kinkaid.

Sonnenberg said if counties or local government entities cannot afford to pay for what they take, they shouldn't make regulations limiting mineral rights.

"If you can't buy it, don't ban it," Sonnenberg said.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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