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Know the West

Thanks for the methane issue

  Dear HCN,

Thanks for your recent issue on coalbed methane. It was wonderful to see you treat an issue that is widespread, complex, and far from environmentally benign, despite methane being labeled a "green" fuel. I have to admit to being a little disappointed that you didn't say anything about the Raton Basin here in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, where I live, though!

What many people, myself included, experience when first confronted with coalbed methane development is how things we have learned to value highly here in the West - like water wells and water rights - are considered expendable by industry and state government. I've witnessed many people make the now predictable progression from righteous indignation ("they can't do that") to shock ("they can do that") to anger ("it's not fair") to despair ("it's hopeless") as we learn how little power we have. In our area we've faced another aspect of gas development that put us through this progression: forced pooling. Even though we own the mineral rights and the surface and don't wish to develop the minerals, our minerals might still be taken and, worse, we might still get a well on our land. Royalties are small compensation for this violation of our stewardship.

We've put up a Web site (www.geocities.com/cbmgas) and started an e-mail list to help educate our neighbors and ourselves. Thanks again for covering this hot issue. We look forward to the next installment.

Jenifer Morrissey
Aguilar, Colorado