A funny thing happened on the way to sign the letter of intent..NOT!
I have been working since May for my area. I went door to door and talked to folks in my section about mineral rights and the need to collectively bargain. I had meetings in my living room then moved them to my yard when there were too many to fit into the house. Soon people from outside my section were joining our group and we had representatives from 8 sections.
I have been negotiating with the O&G Company for 2 months. We reached an agreement regarding money and royalty percentage relatively easily. The terms of the lease related to environmental protections, land owner protections and such took more time and meetings, meetings, meetings, emails, emails and more emails.
Finally last Tuesday we reached an agreement that, while a couple of us would have liked some stronger wording here and there, most of my group was thrilled with. People were excited and questions regarding when we sign a letter of intent became the topic of all emails and calls from the group.
Then came Wednesday evening when the land man called and said we need to talk. He came by and told me that most of 2 of the sections in our group (including the one I live in) may be held by production from a well in a completely different section due to a lease in 1955. Now, I must say, while the land man I have been dealing with is a tough negotiator, he was compassionate when discussing this and went so far as to bring me a copy of the lease the next day. It seems while researching section 28 they stumbled across a 1955 lease that encompassed land in section 30, 19 and section 25 of another township and range but that runs contiguous with section 30 in my neighborhood.
Thursday one of our group members spent the day at the court house trying to research and Friday I joined her and another member to trace the land from the point of the 1955 lease to the present. We are still researching as we must trace every land transaction in our two sections as well as trace the lease/well ownership from its inception in 1955 to the present.
So, Saturday morning I had to tell the people in the affected areas of section 25 and 30 that they may not be able to lease. Telling 50 families that their dreams, and mine had just effectively gone up in smoke due to a 1955 well was heart breaking to say the least. Some could not understand because they had leased before 2 or 3 years ago. What they did not know is many companies, lease flippers and land men only did a 20 or 30 year title search. This would not have picked up on a 1955 lease! Of course we were all sad to see the opportunity for such monitory gain slip through our fingers but the part that really saddened us is the probable loss of the land, environmental and land owner protections we had in the lease agreement I negotiated (they did not have that kind of stuff in 1955 leases).
Immediately after letting down so many people I began a series of meetings in my home that had been scheduled to sign letters of intent for the other members of the group not impacted by this unfortunate event. My friends and I (all of whom live in the area that may be HBP from the 1955 lease/well) worked from 12:30 PM until 10:00 PM Saturday explaining the lease, addendum and letter of intent to 63 families and organizing their signed letters of intent with their legal land descriptions.
At first it was hard to get through this due to our own feelings of grief and frustration. Many people asked us why we were continuing to do all of this work for those who were going to get to lease when we may not. The answer was simple, I started this to bring the community together, educate people and ensure people were protected more than they would be on their own. That has not changed. The ladies who were helping me volunteered early on to help and agreed the right thing to do was to see this through for all.
As the day wore on we found ourselves discussing how blessed we were even if this thing does not get worked out. Our community used to be a bunch of people who happen to live close to each other but did not really know each other. That is no longer the case. We now know each other. Many of us have developed friendships that will now last a lifetime. Some of us are pursuing business opportunities together. We have learned, grown and our community is now truly a community in every old fashioned sense of the word. By 10pm when we were able to turn our attention back to our problem and start categorizing the research done so far and planning for the next trip to the courthouse we were laughing (of course the strawberry lemonade Vodka drink one of the ladies made helped with that!). A funny thing happened on my way to sign my letter of intent. I did not get to sign it but I felt more blessed than the day before anyway.