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Takes Effect July 1st
New guide now available for landowers facing oil and gas drilling

(Raton, June 27) – Members of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association (NMCGA) will celebrate the enactment of the nation's strongest landowner law at its Annual Mid-Year Meeting in Raton June 29. They will also release the Oil & Gas Accountability Project's “Landowner's Guide to the New Mexico Surface Owners' Protection Act” – a step-by-step handbook detailing what the law does for surface owners.

“This new law gives landowners a powerful tool to negotiate with oil and gas companies, so it should result in less conflict between operators and surface owners,” said Bill Sauble, NMCGA President. “This law is the nation's most comprehensive landowner's rights bill in that it requires notification, surface use agreements and compensation.” Sauble went on to state the new law requires that an oil or gas company reclaim — or to substantially restore – the surface to the condition it existed prior to oil and gas operations.

The Surface Owners Protection Act (SOPA), passed by the New Mexico Legislature, and signed into law by Governor Bill Richardson in 2007, strengthens New Mexico law with precedent-setting provisions.  Before this law, oil and gas companies were not required to:

  • Notify landowners 30 days before drilling,
  • Have a written agreement with a surface owner, nor
  • Pay for the use of the land surface.

In 2005 the Oil & Gas Accountability Project, New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, New Mexico Environmental Law Center and San Juan Citizens Alliance worked with Representative Andy Nu ez (D-Hatch) and Senator Cisco McSorley (D-Bernalillo) to draft and promote passage of this important law. In 2006 Governor Richardson put SOPA on his “Call” and has strongly supported the bill the last two years.  Among other provisions, SOPA requires the oil and gas operator to:

  • Describe the proposed operations so that the surface owner can evaluate the effects of the operations on his/her property; and,
  • Propose a surface use and compensation agreement that addresses the timing, location and scope of operations and an offer of compensation.

“We produced the landowner's guide to explain in plain language how people can put this new law to work for them,” said Gwen Lachelt, director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project.  The full color brochure details what the law does, what companies must compensate landowners for, how to negotiate with an oil and gas company and what landowners can do if they can't agree with a company. Copies of the landowner's guide are available at www.ogap.org or by calling any of the organizations listed above. SOPA goes into effect July 1.

OGAP was founded in 1999 to work with communities to prevent and reduce the impacts caused by oil and gas development. OGAP, a program of EARTHWORKS, has 5,000 members and offices in Durango, Bozeman and Washington, D.C. The organization has over 400 members in New Mexico. NMCGA was founded in 1914 and is a grassroots, membership based organization with some 20 committees addressing the issues that affect ranchers and private property owners. With members in 32 of the state's 33 counties as well as 14 other states, the Association represents cattle growers' and their supporters from the Roundhouse in Santa Fe to the halls of Congress and everywhere in between.


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