Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Whose land is this, anyway?(Business)

Byline: Bill Papich For the Journal

* Surface rights and mineral rights clash in the Four Corners region

FARMINGTON With 173 oil and natural gas wells already in the city and record-high natural gas prices odds are up that people living near vacant land here could awake to the sound of a drilling rig.

Already near Aztec, developers planning a golf course and subdivision have been unsuccessful in attempts to restrict drilling on their property.

And in southwest Colorado, also part of the natural gas-rich San Juan Basin, more conflicts are arising between landowners and natural gas production companies.

Though oil and natural gas drilling may seem out of place in residential areas, energy companies often own the subsurface mineral leases, giving them authority to drill, no matter who owns the land.

A mineral lease may be more than 60 years old, issued when Farmington was only a few thousand people living along the San Juan River, compared with today's 40,000 plus.

A group of first-time home buyers in a new Farmington subdivision recently tried and failed to stop the drilling of two natural gas wells 800 feet from their homes and 300 feet from a junior high school. …

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