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If you or a family member owns property being utilized by an oil or gas company for fracking, oil extraction, or some other activity, it is important to understand that you have certain legal rights and remedies if the oil or gas company acts recklessly or negligently and harms you, your family, and/or your property. The same rights and remedies are available to adjacent property owners.
Despite having certain rights, the prospect of taking a large, influential oil or gas company to court can be intimidating. Many oil and gas companies have the financial resources to hire a cadre of defense attorneys.
That is why it makes for you to speak to an experienced oil and gas lawyer in Colorado. When you have a law firm like Elkus & Sisson, P.C. on your side, it helps level the proverbial playing field.
Holding Oil and Gas Companies Liable for Environmental Harms and Losses
Oil and gas companies do not have the carte blanche to do whatever they want while fracking or extracting oil. In fact, there are an array of state and federal laws in place to help protect and mitigate the environmental impact of oil and gas operations in Colorado, and across the country.
Nevertheless, despite these rules and regulations, there are still oil spills and drilling fluid and wastewater leaks that can wreak havoc on the surrounding soil and groundwater that could have negative repercussions far into the future. Even relatively minor spills and leaks carry the risk of exposing you, your family, your crops and livestock to potentially toxic chemicals and other substances that carry potentially serious side effects.
Additionally, in many instances, a leak or damage to a well or drain is likely to impact neighboring properties (i.e. harming long-term usability and value).
When the negligence of an oil or gas company causes pollution and environmental harm, a landowner has the right to seek financial restitution through a civil lawsuit. When a lawsuit is filed, a Colorado court will apply relevant state and federal laws to determine whether an oil or gas company should be held accountable and ordered to pay damages for the environmental damage caused by their reckless or negligent conduct.
In assessing the extent of financial restitution that may be owed a court will consider the following factors:
- The extent and scope of the environmental harm;
- Impact on the overall value of the property;
- The use of the land on a historic basis; and
- Any expenses required to remediate and restore the damaged property.
If the damage to your property and/or the environment is significant enough to require remediation, a Colorado court could hold the oil and/or gas company liable and order the company to pay the costs necessary to restore the land to its original condition.
If the leak, spill, or other contamination causes health issues for individuals in the area, the oil or gas company could be held liable and ordered to compensate residents for their medical expenses, including future medical expenses.
Holding an Oil or Gas Company Responsible When There is a Drilling or Fracking Dispute
Fracking for natural gas has caused an uproar in some communities since there is a heightened risk of water and soil contamination during the fracking process. The risk of contamination is higher when land is fracked because fracking utilizes powerful chemicals that, if they leak or spill into soil, could potentially cause debilitating injuries to individuals and irrevocably damage surrounding property values.
For example, leaking well casings, fluid spills, and ineffective disposal practices for used fluid can cause damage and contaminate both the property and groundwater. When fracking causes contamination, landowners are harmed physically, financially, and emotionally.
In some instances, the lives of landowners can be ruined. If you were harmed as a result of fracking, you should speak to an experienced oil and gas lawyer in Colorado to discuss your legal options.
In addition to contamination issues, there are other types of drilling and fracking disputes that can arise. This includes allegations that there was a breach of a contract, a lease dispute, and so forth. Again, retaining the services of a skilled attorney can be beneficial in resolving these types of disputes when they arise.
Legal Remedies That Can Be Pursued for Underpayment on Land Leases and Royalties
Despite the immense wealth of many oil and gas companies, there is a disturbingly common legal dispute that arises for property owners - underpayment of royalties and ignoring the provisions of land leases. Unfortunately, it is quite common for oil and gas companies to miscalculate royalties or even deny landowners royalty payments.
The tricks and tactics used by oil and gas companies to take advantage of landowners include:
- Artificially increasing production expenses
- Failing to pay shut-in royalties
- Engaging in pooling
- Failing to include portions of land from royalty calculations
- Deducting post-production expenses (even when a lease expressly prohibits these deductions)
- Improperly subtracting unsold fuel or other random fees from royalty payments
If you or a loved one was harmed by an oil or gas company’s failure to pay proper royalties, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit to pursue financial restitution for your harms and losses. You may have grounds to file this type of lawsuit when there is evidence that an oil or gas company violated your rights as a landowner, such as:
- Underpayment of royalties;
- Delay of royalty payments
- Delay of rental payments
In cases where a drilling company fails to protect the property against drainage, landowners can file a lawsuit for damages for the probable royalties that would have resulted without the drainage, taking into account whether a well is currently producing or a new well would need to be drilled to produce.
Contact an Experienced and Respected Oil and Gas Attorney
If you or a family member is a landowner who suspects wrongdoing or neglect by an oil or gas company that led to the contamination of your drinking water, pollution of your land or underpayment of oil and gas royalties, you should take action today by speaking to an experienced oil and gas lawyer at Elkus & Sisson, P.C. To schedule a free consultation call us today at (303) 567-7981.