NE Kansas residents feel crowded by oil producers

2/10/2014

LAWRENCE (AP) — New technologies that allow more oil to be pulled out of formerly low-producing wells have brought oil operators back to northeast Kansas, much to the dismay of landowners who are starting to feel crowded out of their own properties.

LAWRENCE (AP) — New technologies that allow more oil to be pulled out of formerly low-producing wells have brought oil operators back to northeast Kansas, much to the dismay of landowners who are starting to feel crowded out of their own properties.

Some families complain that the drilling on their properties has sharply reduced land values and quality of life, and a state senator has filed a bill to protect people when old leases are suddenly reactivated.

Victoria Guerrero and her husband, Fernando, bought a 10-acre plot of land southeast of Baldwin City just before Fernando started a two-year military deployment to Germany, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

When they returned to Douglas County last February, they were stunned to see the land where they planned to build their dream home was dotted with oil wells. That included four new wells and an injection well for disposal of the drilling waste.

The Guerreros knew when they bought the land that someone else held a lease to the mineral rights, but Victoria Guerrero said there had been little if any drilling activity in the area for many years. During the two years the couple were overseas, she said they never were notified that the leaseholder intended to drill, as they are supposed to do according to the Kansas Corporation Commission.

"If they had," Victoria Guerrero said," questions would have been raised then."

The land they bought for $65,000 has recently been appraised for less than half that value, and they can't get a loan to build on it because there is no space that would meet the set-back requirements for building near a well, Victoria said.

State Sen. Tim Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, has introduced a bill that he says would give surface-right holders more protection when old leases are reactivated. Senate Bill 319 would limit oil drilling to one well per 10 acres unless the property owner consents to more. It also would require the KCC to adopt rules governing wells within 1,000 feet of an occupied structure.

"With these new technologies coming into play, you've got places where they've had wells in the past but they've been low producing or idle for several years," Holland said. "In the meantime, you have people who've bought homes out in the country, and it's a quality-of-life issue."

His bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee but has not been scheduled for a hearing.

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