Dear Big Oil Company,
It was so nice of you to send Mr. Friendly PR Guy to our door to inform my husband that you intend to appropriate nearly a quarter of our land for the purpose of drilling an oil well. I can't begin to tell you how sad that makes us.
It hasn't even been a year yet since we purchased this 2-1/2 acre parcel of land about 16 miles north of the town where we work. We bought it with inheritance money from my father after looking long and hard for just the right spot with plenty of peace and quiet and privacy. The 204 ft. x 536 ft. lot seemed just the right size for our home, workshop, garage, and storage shed. We situated our manufactured home about a 100 feet back from the road, not wanting too large of a front yard to maintain, and leaving lots of space in the back to plant trees, start a garden, make a walking path, and eventually even set up a firing range where we could practice target shooting.
With the upturn in the economy, the oil field is booming again. We've seen drilling rigs popping up all around us, their bright lights making them visible at night for miles in all directions. One went up about a half a mile away, then came another about a quarter mile distant from us. We feared that before long one would come even closer, and we hoped it would be on one of the undeveloped pieces of property around us. No such luck.
Thank you Big Oil Company for letting us know that that the law says oil wells can be placed as close as 1200 feet from each other, and that you can pretty much put them any damn place you want as long as you observe that limitation.
Why, we asked, couldn't you instead put this one on one of the large tracts of nearby ranch land where an acre of caliche topped with a pump jack would hardly be noticeable. The answer came too easy... back then land titles included not only surface rights but also mineral rights for whatever laid below the ground. That means you, Big Oil Company, would have to pay royalties to the land owner for any oil found and pumped. But nowdays land titles here are for surface rights only. The property owner gets nothing for oil pumped from their land. Even surface rights are a bit of a farce, aren't they, since what rights do we have to determine anything regarding this matter? In acutality, none!
So you decided that you want a forth of our little piece of heaven for your drilling location. You will bring in big trucks with lots of equipment to make a road thru our neighbor's property (vacant except for a borded up camper trailer and some fallen down buildings), surface about an acre of ground - half on his property and half on ours - with caliche, construct massive mud pits, and set up a drilling rig some 120 feet tall, that will run 24 hours a day, non-stop, for approximately three weeks. Lots of noise, lots of lights, lots of stench, lots of trucks and workers coming and going across our neighbor's property and the back half of ours.
Sure you are being "generous" by providing us with a small sum of money in return for deeding over the piece of our land you want, and by providing money for us to stay in a hotel during the three-weeks of drilling activity if the noise/lights/stench/general commotion make it difficult for us to sleep in our own bed at night. And we should be "thankful" that the well itself will sit 38 feet outside of our property line instead of inside it. But what about the half acre of caliche that overlaps onto our property and will become a permanent part of the well site? What about the mud pits that by law don't have to be cleaned up for twelve months? What about the permanent loss of this piece of our property? What about property devaluation due to this eyesore?
So many nights have been spent sitting on our back deck watching the beautiful sunset painted across the western sky. That view will forever be obstructed by your pumpjack (see photo below). Lovely, just lovely.
The whole thing sickens us, Big Oil Company, it hurts our hearts. We didn't buy a lot of land, just a small piece that we could afford, and now you tell us you can take that from us and use it as you wish. Sure, we could fight it in court, but we don't have the money for that, and even if we did, its a fight we can't win. You have might on your side, lots of money for high dollar lawyers, and support in high places. Oil is big business. Some land owners who tried to prevent you from drilling on their property paid dearly. Retaliation may be illegal but it's not unheard of in these parts... you have ways of intimidating those who oppose you.
The truth is, as angry as it makes us, there is really not a damn thing we can do about your oil well... but it isn't fair, and it isn't right. Might doesn't always make right. Even sadder is the fact that, despite your PR Guy's friendly demeanor, you honestly don't give a damn about how this decision impacts our property or our lives. It's just business as usual to you. It's all about the profit to be made. People don't really count for much in your business, do they?
Thank you, Big Oil Company, for invading our privacy, for destroying the natural beauty of our property, and for stealing a piece of our dream.
Mr and Mrs JTS