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Help Make it Right

Written by Dennis Sun
The Joint Judiciary Committee is meeting in Douglas on the Oct. 25-26, and two of the items on the agenda for the morning of the Oct. 26 are really important to landowners in Wyoming. One of those issues is establishing the minimum bonding for seismic activity.
    In the past, seismic companies just bonded on to private lands for as little as $2,000 when good faith negotiations failed to lead to an agreement with split estate surface landowners, and the landowner became a victim. The Oil and Gas Commission would set the bonding at a flat amount, without regard to the number of acres to which the seismic company wanted access. One felt kind of kicked in the stomach.
    Seismic activity has really picked up in parts of the state, especially north of Douglas and in the southeastern part of the state, and the seismic crews have gotten better at doing their jobs with less damage – most of the time. Therein lies the problem, as we have to manage for the worst.
    The good part of seismic crews coming to your property that it signals oil or gas drilling may take place in the future, and hopefully you may hold the mineral rights. In that case you absolutely control entry to your land. In past years, almost everyone had a horror story about seismic damage on their ranches. The permitting people or land men had all flunked charm school a couple of times, and their only directions were to get your signature on the right of way agreement. Numerous crews on your land was your worst nightmare.
    It is big business now, and the proposed bill, sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee, with Senator Drew Perkins and Representative Kermit Brown as co-chairman, levels the playing field. The proposed bill would require a minimum bond of $5,000 for the first 1,000 acres or portion thereof and $1,000 for each additional 1,000 acres. Be mindful that this bond is not intended to represent the amount that may be due to the landowner for damages and impacts, but to make the seismic company more diligent in good faith negotiations to enter your property. If the negotiations fail, there is a process to authorize entry on your private lands.
    Also the Interim Committee will discuss and take comments on proposed legislation that would preclude the exercise of eminent domain for collector systems of wind energy developments. The proposed legislation would not allow eminent domain for collector systems until the proponent has negotiated land use and compensation agreements on 85 percent of the private lands or with 85 percent of the landowners upon which the collector systems would be built. While wind energy currently has died down somewhat in the state, it would be good to have this law on the books for the future. A current moratorium on the exercise of eminent domain for this purpose will expire in June of next year.
    So we need your help to fill the room with hats on the Oct. 26 at 8:30 am at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, 1556 Riverbend Drive in Douglas. Whether you give comments or not, you need to be there to show support. It’s the American way.
Dennis