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Although the eastern Wyoming landowner group Progressive Pathways, LLC spent much time and effort developing a detailed proposed easement for the company Oneok Partners Bakken Pipeline, they recently received the easement back, with substantial changes from the company.

The landowners devoted countless hours to producing a proposed easement to present to Oneok that included several major areas of concern: landowner liability, reclamation, abandonment of the pipeline, safety and compensation.

“They’ve not worked very hard at addressing our concerns at this point,” says Progressive Pathways member Pat Wade of Lusk, noting that liability is the number one concern of the members, of which there are about 125.

“We’re trying to limit the landowners’ liability, because we’re concerned that the pipeline company operates as an LLC, so the most any of its owners can lose is their investment in the company. If something really terrible happened, the landowner could become liable, which could possibly cost them their land, which is, for most of us, our biggest asset. We have to have our land to operate in agriculture, so liability is one thing on which we’re working really hard.”

Wade says abandonment is also a top priority.

“Right now they want to leave their options really open when it comes to abandonment, and our concern is that, as these projects age they generally sell, and to a company that’s probably less financially able to fulfill the requirements of the original agreement,” he comments. “If it’s a company that does not have the financial ability, they could walk away because they don’t have the money for proper abandonment.”

Wade says that, in doing so, the landowner could become liable at that point, so he and the others would like some assurances, ideally in a type of bonding.

“I don’t know if we’ll achieve that, but we’d like some assurance the pipeline will be decommissioned properly,” he notes.

The landowners are also working on reclamation language.

“We’re trying to minimize the scarring on our places, and return them back to their original productivity,” says Wade. “We have some concerns about how the pipeline is constructed and installed, and how it’s reclaimed, and also all erosion, noxious weeds and streams that may be polluted through erosion.”

Wade says the last thing the landowners are working on is compensation and negotiating an agreement.

“To some, that may seem the most important, but to many in our group it’s no more important than anything else,” he says, but adds, “The important thing to remember is that everyone else who is involved with the pipeline will do so with the hope of having some profit, and the landowner is the only one asked to give up anything, without having any way to participate in the profits. We’d like to negotiate an annual payment so a landowner can view the pipeline as an asset rather than a liability, and that will be a tough issue.”

“When this comes through, we as landowners have the liability, and everybody’s an LLC except for the ranchers along the route,” says landowner and Progressive Pathways board member Donley Darnell. “Everybody’s making money except for the landowners. When push comes to shove, the landowner supposedly gets the appraised value of their land, which isn’t making money. We get all the added risk and none of the benefits.”

Wade adds that compensation has not been discussed at all to this point, so people can’t assume the group presented an easement with a large price tag, which caused the company to reject it.

“We’re not willing to talk about compensation until we have the rest of the terms in place,” says Wade.

Another concern of the landowners is that Oneok could change the use of the pipeline after its construction.

“When we proposed our easement we wrote that the pipeline would be for one natural gas liquids pipeline. From the beginning Oneok has represented that’s what they wanted to build, but their changes to the easement are written so they could run anything that can be run through a pipeline, and they could switch the use. Once it’s in the ground, the landowners have no ability to weigh in on any of those things. It’s one of those red flag situations,” says Wade.

The original LLC board of Progressive Pathways has been narrowed to a negotiating committee of four members, which had a meeting with Oneok on Oct. 18 in Cheyenne. The Wyoming landowners were joined at the meeting by two representatives from a similar organization for the pipeline in Montana known as the Eastern Montana Landowners Group.

“When we sent our agreement they made the changes they’d like to see, and we’re a long way off from an agreement,” says Wade. “They took out all the language we wrote concerning construction and reclamation. They struck every bit of it, and that’s a huge concern.”

Wade says Progressive Pathways board member Steve Hayes of LaGrange made the point that Oneok has emphasized their consulting with different experts on the phases of the pipeline, and, when it comes to reclamation, the landowners are the experts who understand their places and the implications of the pipeline project, should the land not be properly reclaimed.

“We have several members who have won state and nationwide stewardship awards, and we’ve worked closely with Lisa Shaw and the Niobrara Conservation District for help with the reclamation language,” says Wade.

Darnell says the conservation, reclamation and mitigation portion of the easement includes not only how the company reseeds the land, but also how long the ditch is left open, fire suppression equipment during welding and how to honor and avoid paleontological sites.
Wade says the requests in the easement aren’t unprecedented.

“A whole lot of what we proposed is patterned off an agreement that’s already agreed to, signed and recorded in courthouses between a large landowner group and a large pipeline company,” says Wade. “What we’re doing is not setting a precedent. We’re trying to negotiate something similar, and we’re in hopes that Oneok could do at least as good, if not better.”

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on them, and when we’re not plowing new ground it’s difficult for them to say no, we can’t do that,” says Darnell.
Oneok has chosen a route for their project that avoids federal lands at all costs, because of the red tape and expense that is involved.

“In the end, Oneok appears to have the power to condemn their way through with this, and one of the requirements for condemnation is that the land is needed for the public good. If it’s for the public good, shouldn’t public land be used as much as possible?” asks Wade. “By avoiding federal land there are many permits they don’t have to get. As far as we can find out, the only permit they have to get is a stream-crossing permit through the Army Corps of Engineers, so the whole thing has no regulation or oversight. There’s no comment period, and there’s no opportunity for the landowners to weigh in.”

Wade says that recently Oneok stepped up its public relations campaign, meeting with county commissioners in the affected counties and interviewing with local newspapers.

“They’re representing the whole process considerably differently than the way we view it,” says Wade, noting that’s what prompted a letter to the editor for local papers from Wade and fellow landowner Danny Hanson.

The letter outlines the landowners’ opinions and goals, and also encourages new members to join with Progressive Pathways.

“Right now Oneok is stepping up their process, and they sent out a letter to every landowner that could be interpreted as somewhat threatening, so we’re hoping people will join with us as they receive that letter and see the limited success they’d have in negotiating on their own,” states Wade.

Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A few months ago, in late 2010, individual landowners in eastern Wyoming received requests from the company Oneok Partners LP for permission to survey for a 12-inch natural gas pipeline that is planned to move natural gas from Sidney, Mont. to Buxton, Kan.
After learning of the planned pipeline, and in response to the requests for permission to survey and the impending use of eminent domain for a pipeline right-of-way, landowners along the proposed route have formed a landowner group that encompasses the length of the pipeline in Wyoming, and also partners with a similar group in Montana.
“Our goal is not to stop the pipeline – we just want to be treated fairly,” says eastern Wyoming landowner Steve Hays, who’s involved with the group, known as Progressive Pathways, LLC. “Our four points of concern are liability, reclamation, abandonment and compensation for what they do to our land.”
Currently the group is still in the signup stage and is recruiting more landowners to join in the effort.
Progressive Pathways is divided into three 100-mile increments, which run from the Colorado line to the Platte River, from the Platte River to the northern Niobrara County line, and from there north to the Montana state line. Each of the three sections has its own board of directors, composed of four landowners, giving a total governing body of 12. The boards of directors were voted into service at each of the areas’ landowner meetings.
“My big concerns are liability, reclamation, abandonment or change of use, and one thing we’re really adamant about is that the easement is written as a one-time, one-pipeline use only, so there can’t be other pipelines or other things added to the easement later on,” says Lusk area landowner Pat Wade, who is a member of his region’s board of directors and who was in on the initial planning stages of Progressive Pathways.
“With our landowner group we’ll be able to collectively bargain,” says Hays of the reasoning behind forming the group, which has hired Cheyenne attorney Frank Falen of Budd-Falen Law Offices to advise them. Hays says that, while the 12 representative landowners will conduct negotiations on behalf of the rest of the landowners, Falen will help educate and guide them.
“If we were to walk in alone to negotiate, we’d be one leaf in the forest, but if we walk in together we represent 300 miles with a unified voice, and hopefully they’ll pay attention to us,” says Hays.
Falen says he’s in the final stages of working with a similar landowner group in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.
“That has worked really well – we put together one big group, elected a negotiating team and they worked with the pipeline company to reach a template agreement that was then distributed to the members, and almost everyone has adopted that easement agreement,” notes Falen. “We’re hoping to repeat the same thing, because it was a successful and is a useful template.”
In a mere two-and-a-half months the eastern Wyoming landowners have succeeded in organizing the group and recruiting 70 landowners that control approximately 50 percent of the proposed pipeline route, and Hays says they hope to get that number to 80 percent.
Hays says signup to join the group will be open as long as possible, and that it’s quite involved to figure out where the pipeline is going and which landowners are involved, because Oneok is not sharing any information on their route plans.
“Once a neighbor tells us they’ve received a letter, we’ll have them talk to their neighbors to the north and south to see if they’ve also received one. It’s really tough, and we have some out-of-state landowners and some people who don’t believe in what we’re doing and want to negotiate their own treatment,” explains Hays.
Although the board of directors of Progressive Pathways will represent everyone as a group in negotiations, individual landowners have the option, after the best deal possible is struck with the company, to either take it or leave it. Also, if they feel they need to do more negotiation particular to their property, they can.
“Everyone has the right to say it’s not working for them, and they have the right to drop out,” says Hays.
Progressive Pathways is collecting membership fees on a per-mile basis to pay the bills and the cost of operating.
Falen says a unique and unexpected twist in the Oneok negotiations is the company’s claim that their line will not be subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requirements.
“It’s Oneok’s position that, because the product is called natural gas liquids, as opposed to liquid natural gas, they’re not required to get a certificate before they can begin construction of the pipeline,” says Falen. “That’s interesting, because it leads to the question of who, if anybody, regulates it.”
In a traditional FERC process, Falen says there’s much opportunity for landowner involvement, and he had planned on being involved.
“You’d think with a $500 million project there’d be some regulation and permit requirement somewhere,” he continues, adding that not even Montana’s Major Facility Siting Act applies because the pipeline isn’t big enough in circumference, even though it will move a lot of material.
“It doesn’t come under the Montana act, and there is no regulation in Wyoming, if this is treated like a crude oil line, which doesn’t need any permits in Wyoming,” says Falen. “The concern for us is that the condemnation allows them to take property, and most landowners would like to say that, if they’re going to put this industrial use on their property, they have a lot of concerns, and if they were a true ‘willing seller’ those would be addressed before permission is granted.”
“Condemnation is more political than it is legal,” notes Falen. “There are many politics wrapped up in it, and if you feel like you’re being steamrolled what you have to do is look at the places that are capable of regulating it. A group of this size has the ability to pull some of those levers, whereas it’s difficult for an individual landowner to do that.”
Falen says it’s also been his experience that, if a group of landowners is large enough, they can speak higher up the ladder to those in the company who are the policy makers and who have more authority to actually address concerns rather than, for example, one landowner talking to a field agent.
“The goal of a group like this is to be a large enough size that it’s worth the company’s while to have the folks at the policy-making level sit down in the same room and work on their issues. That’s one of the first big advantages,” he adds.
“We just want to represent the landowners as a whole so they’re not taken advantage of in a forced transaction,” says Hays. “Oneok would have a carte blanche right to take advantage of each of us individually, and there are many, many horror stories of pipelines crossing people and then being abandoned, or reclamation not conducted up to specs. If something happens, we don’t want to be held liable for injuries, and if the pipeline is abandoned, the cost to excavate a natural gas or crude line would break most landowners. Those are some of our negotiating points, and our goal is to keep them chained to the negotiation table so that both parties are happy in the end.”
“So far Oneok seems open to talking with us and working with us on our issues, but our concern is what to do if they don’t address them to the extent we think they should,” says Falen. “We have some options, and a lot of ideas, but it seems that if state law takes away a landowner’s ability to truly protect himself, there ought to be some help somewhere.”
Hays says Oneok would like to start surveying immediately and begin construction in Spring 2012. The first meeting between landowner representatives and Oneok was held March 23 in Cheyenne, and Falen expected five representatives to attend.
“I helped organize the vehicle, and I work with them, but it’s their decisions,” says Falen of the meetings. “They’re free to listen or not listen to my advice – I’m not the one doing the negotiating.”
For more information on Progressive Pathways, contact Steve Hays at 307-834-2184 or Pat or Joann Wade at 307-334-2425. Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pinedale – “There was a lot a of dramatic and extreme restoration being done in the Jonah Field and the Pinedale Anticline, but no one had proof that these reclamation efforts were working,” says NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist and Plant Materials Leader for Southwest Wyoming Karen Clause of the incentive for a restoration project on the Anticline.
“We wanted to provide a public forum to view what would and wouldn’t work in this area as far as plants, seed mixes and using different planting methods, including broadcast versus drill seeding,” explains Clause.
“We just started brainstorming one day. We knew we wanted to do a reclamation trial, and this one ended up falling into place with a location and some great partners,” she adds.
The former well pad had been ripped, smoothed and the topsoil had been replaced, but Clause says the seedbed was still less than ideal for planting. Thirty-two grasses, 26 forbs and 16 shrub varieties were planted in October of 2005. A cone seeder, broadcasting and drilling were used to plant seeds, and a small number were also planted using a hydro-seeder.
Different seed mixtures were used to compare their success levels, and a number of seeds not typically planted in the area were tested. In the broadcast application two seeds mixes were used.
“The first was a Bridger mix, and it contained 72 percent grasses, 23 percent forbs and five percent shrubs. We applied that mixture at 78 seeds per square foot,” explains Clause. “The second mix was a Shell mix, and it had 34 percent grass seeds, 15 percent forbs, and 51 percent shrubs. Application rates were set at 138 seeds per square foot.”
For five years after planting, the site was evaluated on emergence, survival, vigor, biomass and a number of other key points.
Today Clause says the success of the project is highlighted by what they learned, and are able to share with the oil and gas industry, agencies involved in reclamation and the public.
“The biggest push in reclamation right now is in growing shrubs and forbs. We’ve found that we are good at growing sagebrush, but found it interesting to look at what was done on this site and the resulting growth rates.
“We found that there is no magic thing to make forbs grow here successfully, and that we need to continue our work in that area. We had several forb entries in this trial that grew really well for the first two years, and were never seen again. Others tapered off drastically after a couple years. Some that weren’t present the first three years are showing up after five. I think our human time scale and patience level with the reclamation process may not be appropriate for what it takes to get forbs off the ground,” notes Clause.
“The results of our trial helped contribute to a couple grasses being released onto the production market. One of those is Continental basin wildrye, which was a joint release between the Agriculture Research Service and the Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center out of Meeker, Colo.,” says Clause.
She adds Copperhead slender wheatgrass was also released thanks in part to results from this project. It was originally designed as an acid tolerant plant, but performed well in the alkaline solids outside Pinedale. “Our results added to other results on the species, and showed additional geographical areas it will perform well in,” notes Clause.
In 2010, 98 percent of the species originally planted were present. A number of varieties of basin wildrye and wheatgrass topped the performance list for grasses, and three saltbush varieties topped the replicated shrub list after five years. Western yarrow and Appar flax were the top two performing forbs on the site. Clause notes these are preliminary results, and final results will be released after additional analysis is performed early next year.
“All of the performance information has been added to our agency database. This is very helpful when people from a certain geographical area come in and ask what to plant in this specific location. We have this list from all these background studies that shows us what really works and where,” explains Clause. “We get very specific, too, and within a species that has eight varieties we can show which one or two will perform best in an area.
“The added data from this trial also resulted in some oil and gas companies changing their seed mixtures, or adding additional varieties that we now know will perform well in the area,” explains Clause.
“We have a resource now that supports the appropriate plant species for a region, and this project added to that resource,” she adds.
“But, perhaps the best thing about this project is that people can come and see it. We wanted it to be a public forum, and it has been. We have had a number of people from the oil and gas industry, the university, cooperative extension and a number of state and local agencies to the site, where they can physically see what we did and how it turned out. That has been huge,” notes Clause, who has also been very busy traveling to a number of seminars and meetings, where she presents information on the project.
Clause reminds that the project is ongoing, and additional, more refined work on shrubs, in addition to continued monitoring, is planned for the site.
“One of the most successful aspects of this project was the number of partners, and how we all worked together. Aimee Davison with Shell came on board at the beginning and was a huge partner. The Wyoming Game and Fish, BLM, local and state NRCS offices and the Sublette County Conservation District also contributed materials, time and other resources. It’s rare to have so many partners come together on a project of this scope and have it run so smooth and be such a success,” says Clause.    
“The Bridger Plant Materials Center and Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center were also key partners in the project, and helped with seed selection and material contribution. We were all out there, doing the groundwork with this, and had so many agencies and individuals donate their time and resources.
“This has been one of the best cooperative projects I’ve been involved in during my 18 years with the NRCS. It’s a true success story on how we can all work together and reach a common goal,” she concludes.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Douglas – “This is development that will happen,” said Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor Tom Doll to a group of ag industry members at the 2010 Cattlemen’s Conference Aug. 18, speaking about the Niobrara oil play and the activity surrounding it in southeast Wyoming.
The Wyoming Livestock Roundup and Double S Feeders of Wheatland hosted the conference, which was held in conjunction with the Wyoming State Fair.
“Chesapeake has been very active here, and will continue to be so,” said Doll of the activity around Douglas in the Frontier sands– a tight sand that has been successfully completed with horizontal wells.
“The wells will be drilled vertically to 8,000 feet, then they’ll go horizontal for 4,000 feet,” explained Doll. “That’s critical to the success in the Niobrara area, which is a tight shale rock. It contains oil, but doesn’t have a way for the oil to flow from one pore space to another.”
To extract the oil, operators drill horizontally, hoping to find a natural fracture. Once one is found, they use stimulations to enhance it with a hydraulic fracturing treatment. A recent change in the Commission’s rules asks for more disclosure on the hydraulic fracturing chemistry injected into each well, including the chemical name, type, concentration and plan.
“We want to know what exactly went into that well, and provide all that information for each zone they complete,” said Doll. “It provides a lot more clarity in the process, so people know exactly what’s injected into the wells, and unless the operator can prove it’s a trade secret it will be available on our web page.”
In addition to disclosing the hydraulic fracturing chemistry, as part of the fracturing rule the Commission requires operators to identify the known water supply wells within a quarter mile of the drill site, as well as case and cement to below the deepest aquifer in the area.
With 12 field inspectors, the Commission exists to regulate operators as they perform under Wyoming’s energy industry rules and regulations. The Commission website tracks current data for each county with drilling activity, complete with a list of operators and well names.
To date, 20 horizontal drilling permits have been issued in Converse County, and 57 have been issued in Laramie County. Doll said the website is one way for landowners to track the progress of an operator on their property.
“It’s different, we’re not out in the wilds,” said Doll of drilling in southeast Wyoming compared to other areas of the state. “We have irrigated lands and grain lands that could be impacted here, and a lot of operators are trying to get near the county road with their location, and they’re working with the landowner on bigger locations and multi-well pads, rather than putting smaller wells right in the middle of the landowners’ livelihood.”
Doll said he expects companies will ask to take advantage of different spacing on drilling activities, rather than the standard 640-acre spacing. “They’ll ask for 1,280-acre spacing instead, which would allow them to sit on one site and drill as many as four wells from the same pad,” he explained. “It’s similar to southwest Wyoming, with the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline, with multiple wells and directional drilling. This technology for horizontal drilling is proven, and it’s just now being applied in Wyoming.”
Although Doll said operators will try to keep disturbance to a minimum, the larger rigs capable of drilling from 18,000 to 20,000 feet have to have the hoisting ability to get the steel out of the well. He said the acreage needed for the pad all depends on the size of the drilling rig.
Looking into the immediate future, Doll said he expects a limited amount of activity on the ground. “There’s been a flurry of activity in the courthouse, and probably at your front door, for those of you who have minerals, but the bottleneck is the availability of the proper drilling equipment and the crews to drill the horizontal wells,” he commented.
Doll said there are 139 rigs in North Dakota on a large play that’s been going on for several years. “People think the Niobrara might be equivalent, but right now we don’t have enough drilling rigs or experienced crews to man those rigs,” he said. “I think in the future that could change, as people build more drilling rigs capable of going to these depths, and horizontally. The companies that have equipment and crews right now are running from Colorado to western Wyoming to central North Dakota. Hopefully we can detour some of those as they come by.”
“The thing that will impact the wells the most is there’s no infrastructure,” said Doll of the area. “The last production in Platte County was in the late-‘70s, and the last in Goshen County was in the ‘80s, and I can’t even tell you the last activity in Laramie County. This is all new, so there’s no pipeline and no road infrastructure out there.”
According to Doll, a lot of the oil will be trucked out of state to be refined, at least at first. “That will be a problem, and one that North Dakota is facing. They’re full at the refinery at Bismarck, the pipes heading east are full, and they have one rail tanker train handling 100,000 barrels of oil a day. A second 100,000-barrel train will be constructed to help get the crude oil out, and they also have 400 trucks hauling crude oil out of the fields to the pipeline and the refinery. We’ll have to look at that in southeast Wyoming, because there’s just not that kind of infrastructure there.”
Doll said the roads in southeast Wyoming were not built for heavy drilling rigs and oilfield traffic. “There will have to be an upgrade to some state highways, and the prudent operators have already talked to the county commissioners about improving the county roads. That’s the push we need to have,” he stated. “We need to start taking care of the infrastructure early on in this play, and become prepared for it, if it’s to become as successful as some geologists hope it will be.”
“This is a good opportunity, for those who haven’t yet seen oil and gas development. It’s good for individuals, the county and the state, as well,” said Doll.
To view the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s website and the information on the operators and permits issued in southeast Wyoming, visit wogcc.state.wy.us and click on “Horizontal Wells.” Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Worland – At the direction of Management Council, the Interim Joint Agriculture State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee of the Wyoming Legislature’s second priority was landowner and state land issues related to energy development. 

During the group’s late-April meeting in Worland, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW), several Wyoming agencies and stakeholders testified on the subject. 

“We came to a few conclusions after looking through federal and state statutes, rules and regulations, agency responsibilities and policies,” said John Masterson of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Law. 

Pipeline impacts

Masterson first emphasized that oil and gas production greatly contributes to Wyoming’s economy, with two-thirds of state revenue resulting from mineral production and nearly 21,000 jobs in the state a result of pipelines. 

“If we decide to take steps toward regulating or passing statutes to further regulate pipelines, it needs to be done deliberately and carefully because of the impact it has on a number of levels,” Masterson said. 

Additionally, Masterson referred to the state’s current regulations, coupled with federal policies, as “an alphabet soup” of policies. 

Systemic issues

“Finally, based on our research, we did not find any indication that pipeline spills are a systemic problem in the state of Wyoming,” Masterson commented. “There is not a chronic, ongoing problem with pipeline spills.”

He continued that he believes the regulatory systems currently exist for all types of pipeline spill cleanup – including infield and feeder lines, intrastate pipelines and interstate pipelines. 

“There is already a mechanism in place for the smaller, infield and feeder pipelines underneath the jurisdiction of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC),” Masterson explained.

WOGCC holds authorities for oil and gas production regulation, including the ability to require posting of bonds in the event that a spill occurs. 

“There are other bonding requirements when we talk about intra- and inter-state pipelines,” he added. 

Regulatory measures

Masterson noted that a wide list of agencies have jurisdiction over pipelines within the state, including the Office of State Lands and Investments, Department of Environmental Quality, Public Service Commission, BLM and others.

Each agency has various authorities within the structure of regulations, as well. 

“The WOGCC has the ability to promulgate rules and regulations preventing waste, which I believe covers spills,” he said. “The Wyoming Public Service Commission has jurisdiction and inspections of intrastate lines under grant authority from the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

Further, interstate transmission lines trigger federal regulations and national-level protections.

Bonding 

When looking at the ability of regulating agencies to establish bonds, Senator Larry Hicks asked, “How does bonding work for pipelines that have been in the ground for 50 years? The problems we deal with are not chronic and reoccurring. They are acute and can be catastrophic.”

Bonding mechanisms, added Masterson, allow for the ability to adjust bonding, but he also commented that he was unsure about how that applied to pipelines that existed prior to bonding requirements.

Hicks further asked about the instance of acute failures where bonds were inadequate.

“I did not find any instances of acute failures that were not covered by bonds,” Masterson said. “I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I was unable to find any.”

Protecting landowners

“I think the concerns of the committee are focused on those areas where there is insolvency,” commented Committee Co-Chair Representative Mark Semlek. “Discussions that oil and gas folks around the state and the Governor’s Office on the orphan well situations with coal bed methane is an illustration as to why there is concern.”

Masterson noted that the legislature has passed statutes to protect innocent landowners, also commenting, “I am not aware of a situation where insolvency has been a problem. We do have mechanisms to pay for remediation.”

“I am not minimizing a potential problem, but there are things in place,” he continued.

Industry concerns

Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna commented that landowners do have concerns with potential pipeline problems.

“Large pipelines may be in the ground and in use for 50 years or more,” said Magagna. “Over the generational change in the ownership of the land, if a problem does occur, knowing where to go and who holds the current liability is an overwhelming challenge that is faced.”

Navigating the complexities of regulations is an additional challenge facing landowners.

“As Mr. Masterson pointed out, there could be six or seven agencies involved, and for the average landowner to know where they should go to receive assistance in addressing problems can be a tremendous challenge,” Magagna continued, citing examples of landowners who have 11 or more intra- and interstate pipelines running across their property.

Action

Magagna further requested the committee consider a bill to create a position within state government to serve as a landowner liaison. 

Committee Co-Chairman Senator Gerald Geis said, “Could we put this in the consumer advocacy division of the Public Service Commission?”

Geis moved to forward a bill that would create a landowner liaison position to assist landowners in navigating channels for assistance, but the bill failed due to lack of a second.

An additional motion passed asking the Legislative Services Office to look at issues for landowner indemnification and preparing a draft bill for review if there are no measures available.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..