oil pumps on sunset

Oil pumps at sunset.

Should Colorado homeowners be forced to lease mineral rights to oil and gas companies?

The Denver-based U.S. District Court for Colorado has been asked to weigh in after anti-fracking organization Colorado Rising sued the state Monday on behalf of a group of Broomfield homeowners seeking to stop "forced pooling," according to a news release from the grassroots organization.

The lawsuit "challenges the constitutionality of the forced pooling provision of the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, CRS § 34-60-116(6)," according to the release.

Colorado's forced-pooling law enables oil and gas operators to obtain an order from the state to combine the mineral rights of a group of property owners into a cohesive drilling unit — even if the property owners do not consent.

Thirty-four states have forced-pooling statutes, including all the major oil-producing states save California.

Such laws are widely seen as a key tool to ensure the orderly and efficient development of oil and gas resources, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Colorado's law violates "the privileges and immunities clause of the United States Constitution because it grants exclusive privileges to private gas and oil operators and injures” the homeowners involved in the suit, the lawsuit contends.

Colorado Public Radio reports that the industry trade group Colorado Oil and Gas Association called the lawsuit “frivolous."

This story draws on reporting by contributor Mark Jaffe.

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