Judge throws out suit over forced pooling fight in Colorado


A federal judge has ruled against a Colorado activist group’s lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of a state law forcing property owners to allow the development of their oil and gas.

U.S. district judge R. Brooke Jackson threw out the 2019 lawsuit filed by the Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee formed in a subdivision of Broomfield, a community located between Denver and Boulder.

The Committee’s lawsuit was against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and contended a state law allowing private companies to harvest minerals without the consent of the owners was in violation of their constitutional rights.

“We feel powerless,” said Jean Lim, one of the mineral owners in a statement when the suit was filed 14 months ago. “It’s hard to believe this can happen in the U.S. I always thought property rights were protected and certainly never thought the government could take my property and give it to a private entity over my objections.”

She and others filed suit after banding together in 2016 and receiving what they called “an unreasonable lease offer” from Denver-based Extraction Oil and Gas.

In his ruling, Judge Jackson wrote, “Although I recognize the sincerety of the plaintiff’s concerns, I conclude that a federal court is not the appropriate forum to resolve these questions. Therefore, I dismiss Wildgrass’ procedural due process claims…”

The judge also wrote, “I find that Wildgrass has failed to state
a substantive due process claim, a Contracts Clause claim, or a First Amendment claim, and therefore those claims must be dismissed.”

The lawsuit was based on the proposed drilling of 120 wells by Extraction Oil and Gas on 10,240 acres.

Residents questioned the impact of drilling on health and safety, meanwhile, the city rejected three comprehensive drilling plans submitted by Extraction Oil & Gas. Nevertheless, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved 13 drilling permits in 2017.

Invoking a Colorado law allowing for forced pooling, the commission sent Wildgrass members “an election letter requiring that they either elect to voluntarily participate in the large-scale residential fracking project or have their minerals pooled into the project and suffer a hefty penalty despite their myriad objections.”