'The playing field has to be leveled'

  • Charles Micale and a gas well at entrance to his ranch

    Christopher Tomlinson

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, "Colliding forces."

Charles Micale owns the My Way Ranch in Collbran, Colo. In October 1999, Strachan Exploration Co. drilled a methane well at the ranch's entranceway; since then, Micale has been fighting for more property rights for landowners who live above methane gas. Charles Micale:

"The first thing my father did when he got off the boat from Italy was kiss the ground. Then he bought a piece of land.

"I'm not a tree-hugger. I believe if we need a gas well, we should build one, but there is a way to do so and preserve the surface rights. We should be using directional drilling.

"Why do I as a business developer have to address every single issue that a member of the community might have and mitigate it with every interested party? A piece of property I own in Castle Rock was part of a predevelopment meeting. I was told it could take up to a year going through all the processes. How is that fair, when the oil and gas industry doesn't need to do anything? Rather, they are empowered through the commission to place a notice on your fencepost, and 30 days later I am told they can place a $5,000 bond with the commission and completely circumvent all of the issues the surface owners have to confront, not to mention in the least all of the public hearings and notices required. Very rarely do you see an industry so well-insulated by the law.

"If I have to do all these things on my land to protect the environment, then I say the mineral fella does as well. I want Strachan's plan so I know what he wants to do. The playing field has to be leveled.

"The state Supreme Court says you must accommodate the surface owner to the fullest extent possible. What that means is if a fella wants to drill for oil, he has to talk to me first."

High Country News Classifieds