Above: Elbert County landowner Mark Fault signed a lease that allows Chesapeake Energy Corp. to drill beneath his land in the Cross Diamond subdivision. (Photo by Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)
Under the state’s 1951 Oil and Gas Conservation Act, the mineral rights of a landowner who has not signed a lease, or refuses to sign one, can by state order be force pooled, meaning he or she can be included in an energy company’s drilling plan.
In 2010, the state oil and gas commission issued 136 orders for items such as variances and rule changes, and 48 of the orders were for forced pooling, according to agency data.
"It sounds like eminent domain, but it is really there to assure orderly oil and gas development," said Lance Astrella, an attorney who represents landowners. "The problem is that it can be abused."