Oil-and-gas rights debate draws crowd

By Phaedra Haywood: The New Mexican

Oil-and-gas industry representatives and advocates of increasing the rights of landowners who don’t own the mineral rights under their property squared off Wednesday before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Debate is scheduled to resume Friday on House Bill 219, which deals with cases in which there is a split estate, or when the surface of the land and the minerals underneath are owned by different parties.

It’s one of the most contentious issues in the extraction of oil and gas — one that flared recently in Santa Fe County before an energy company backed off plans to drill in the Galisteo Basin.

Information about the ownership of mineral rights can be hard to find. Surface rights owners often don’t learn until just before production starts that someone else has the right to drill on their property.

The legislation would require oil and gas producers to notify surface owners 30 days before signing a lease with mineral rights owners. It would also require that surface owners be told the identity of the mineral owner and be given time to try to negotiate their own lease or purchase of the rights under their property.