Because Elbert County has natural gas resources like Garfield County's, Ms. Meixsell was invited by the Elbert County Democrats to present what she had discovered about drillers, landowner rights, contracts, health, safety, and environmental issues and to answer questions at the new Elizabeth Library Building, across from Big R, on Tuesday evening, June 7, 2011.
Giving high marks to Elbert County homeowners associations who were already banding as consortiums to deal with oil and gas developers, Meixsell remarked that it was a "good" move because "they'll receive a fair deal for their mineral rights." It also guarantees that specific lease agreements are carried out.
She sees no alternative to natural gas drilling. There won't be a moratorium anytime soon; "but we can make sure it's done responsibly."
A few years later, natural gas drilling was beginning to happen in her end of Garfield County and her neighbors began to get concerned when they were contacted by development companies. "There was a meeting at the junior high school gym," similar to the meeting at the Exhibit Hall in January here in Elbert County, "and we received information-but it wasn't enough."
The information at the junior high meeting did not, for instance, explain contracts or how to deal with those commissioned to buy mineral rights for development companies, or, really, what natural gas development looked like: "A well pad can be a hundred feet by a hundred feet, and it can have leaks or a whitish smoke coming out of the joints. It can be built well or it can have problems. A lot of that is a result of contracts."
In answer to a question from an audience member among the 100 who attended regarding figuring whether he had mineral rights, Richard Miller, Development Director, suggested consulting Schedule B of the property paperwork, which disseminates such information. It leads a spectator to wonder why such basic information was not covered at the initial oil and gas meeting in January.
Because of her work, concerned citizens can find out information on current and developing wells through wellwatch.org , a website that actually zeroes in on the wells in a given area; a "landman report card," detailing the shenanigans of unscrupulous representatives of the oil and gas companies, and detail health issues. "The burden of proof is on you when you're trying to prove that there's been harm."
Mentioned in the presentation but not emphasized, Tara Meixsell asked the question: "How much do your county officials depend on oil and gas and what are their feelings about it?"
She suggested that citizens call and find out. The Garfield BOCC has evidently dropped a health survey because it was a political liability. Just how concerned are they with their public's health?
"There are all sorts of people involved with the development of oil and gas," she remarked, "and some of them depend on the revenue it brings in. Some of your neighbors; some relatives of them. Are your elected officials in that group? Find out."