Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Testimony at the Texas Energy Resources Committee Supporting Surface Owner Protection and Texas House Bill 3600

HB 3600

Hello thank you Mr. Chair and committee members for allowing my testimony,  I am Calvin Tillman from Aubrey, TX and I am here representing myself to support HB 3600.  

Whenever a drilling rig shows up in someone's backyard, the affected landowners start searching on the internet and they usually find a handful of people including myself.  So I have heard stories from surface owners all over this state, and frankly it is time for us to do something about protecting the surface owners.  

Through personal interactions, and being intimately involved in the interactions of others, I must agree with Representative Wu's assessment that you should consider getting an attorney anytime the oil and gas industry shows up at your door.  However, that is not how people do business in rural Texas.  Also, the litigation process is not an easy process for a property owner to go through.

Imagine working hard your entire life to buy your dream home, a home and 10 acres that you build into your dreams, you get a horse for your children to the ride.   When you close on the property you already have plans to build a barn for these horses, and seed the front pasture for them to graze, as well as building a pipe and cable fence to keep the horses in.  

You question you realtor at closing about a document that you are asked to sign.  It is a one page document that has you simply acknowledge that you do not own the minerals for the property that you are purchasing.  Your realtor explains that if you are digging in your yard and hit oil - the oil is somebody else's.  

You continue living the American Dream for the next several years.  You have performed the improvements you had planned when purchasing the property, and now this is officially your dream home.   

Then one day whaile you were traveling for work, and shortly after your wife leaves for work,  without notice a natural gas drilling company comes and cuts down your new pipe and cable fences and proceeds to bulldoze approximately three of your ten acres for a well pad site.  

When you provide the Forman your displeasure with the process, the Forman on the site lets you know that it would be in your best interest to not speak with an attorney, cause they could really make it tough on you if you start causing problems.  They then threaten you with a restraining order that would prevent you from being able to use your own home.  But they brag about how nice they were, because after they cut your fence down they locked your horses in the barn.  

A drilling rig is set up to drill two natural gas wells on the massive pad site 300 feet from your back door.  You are curious why this company needs to put this well 300 feet from your back door, when there are tens of thousands of acres of open land around you.  When you figure out the answer, you are disturbed, the reason that this company did this...is because they can.

Your deep republican roots, have you support the oil and gas industry, but what you have seen makes you question how your party could support what just happened to you.  You are military veteran, who faithfully served his country, you ask yourself if this is what you defended. 

You then think about think about the document at closing, wondering why your realtor did not describe this process to you when you asked about owning minerals.  If she had told what potentially could happen to you, you would have run.  

Whenever I tell this story, most people can not believe that this could not happen in America, and certainly not in a property rights state like Texas.  However, the scenario that I just described do not happen in some third world dictatorship, this happened right here in TX , and it happened in Representative Phil King's district.

There is actually a rule that requires for notification of the surface owner within 15 days after a permit is approved from a the Railroad Commission.  However, there is no penalty for not complying with this rule.  This is an example of when a law is not really a law.  

I know that the job this committee does is very important, and I know there is a variety of subjects that you deal with every session.  We have to start the discussion regarding surface owner protection in Texas.  There are several other mineral producing states that already have reasonable surface owner protection.  This has not stopped mineral exploration in these states.  

With Texas's vast mineral production history, we should not be catching up to other states on protecting honest hard working Texans, we should be leading.  If not now, when?

Thank you.

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