Kansas oil boom frustrates landowners

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - Newly found oil in Kansas has oil producers finding more places to dig and that means they're expanding oil operations closer to homes in the metro area. However, the new wells have dug up new frustrations.

Just after Victoria Guerrero and her husband got back from their military service in Germany, they had big plans to build on 10 acres of pasture land right next to Grandma and Grandpa.

Guerrero said her new husband had a dream.

"He's always wanted to build a log cabin," she said.

But she said those dreams came crashing down when she and her mother, Sara Yardley, heard a lot of noise outside of Yardley's living room window last January.

"We went outside and said, ' What are you doing?' He [the oil operator] showed me a map and I said 'That looks like that's in front if my house!'" she said.

When a family purchases land, there are minerals below ground that someone else may own or have leasing rights to those minerals. If that's the case, families have little say what happens above ground.

Since new efforts in hydraulic fracturing has led to new found oil in southern Kansas , oil producers are beginning to act on old leasing rights agreements that allow them to dig new wells and injector wells.

Oil operators like RT Enterprises, out of Louisburg, Kan., are expanding operations in Miami, Douglas and Johnson Counties in northeast Kansas.

Since January of 2013, RT Enterprises has built 17 new oil wells and 10 injector wells on the families' 80 acres of land south of Baldwin City.

More could come just about everywhere on their property.

"I think one of our neighbors has one built 50 feet off his deck," land owner Amy Adamson said.

Another well, they said, could eventually be built in Yardley's barn and another in her circle driveway. The state of Kansas has no restrictions how close or far an operator can build to a structure. 

Guerrero said the mineral rights lease agreement, written for their land in 1918, that set a 200 feet boundary from structures no longer applies.

The five wells now on her land leave her no room for her dream log cabin close to Grandma's.

She said as the price of oil goes up, there could be others like her.
"I don't want anyone else's dreams to be smashed to smithereens," she said.
"We're discovering more oil but we have to respect other people's personal property," her mother said.

RT Enterprises said the wells on the acreage have produced more than $1 million a year. The oil operator said each of the families have received royalties each month and that Guerrero refused a buyout offer.

RT Enterprises said some homeowners as close to the metro as Johnson County have called them asking to explore for oil on their properties.

But Guerrero said there should be boundaries on a property owner's land, no matter who owns the mineral leasing rights.

Lawmakers could consider a Senate bill that Guerrero and the other land owners have pushed that would update old leases and define boundaries to protect property owners.

Guerrero and her family hopes Kansans will support Senate Bill 319.

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