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Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee v. Colorado

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20066
Nos. 19-cv-00190-RBJ, (D. Colo., 03/18/2020) (Jackson, J.)

A district court dismissed constitutional challenges to Colorado's forced pooling statute, under which property owners were required to allow oil and gas companies to extract their minerals. A group of property owners argued the statute violated the First Amendment by requiring non-consenting owners to "associate" with oil and gas companies through "compulsory monetary contribution" and by compelling them to subsidize the companies' speech. The court found no evidence that any association between the owners and oil and gas operators was in any way expressive, and thus that the group had not raised a genuine dispute. It further found the statute neither was aimed at nor funded speech, and thus did not compel subsidization of private speech. The group next argued the statute violated the owners' substantive due process rights because it forced them to associate with oil and gas operators, was unreasonably vague, and constituted a taking for purely private use. The court again found no evidence that the statute required the owners to associate with oil and gas operators for the advancement of political beliefs, that it did not authorize arbitrary enforcement and was thus not facially vague, and that although the group showed the existence of a property interest it failed to show that the taking of such interest did not serve a public purpose. Finally, the group argued the statute violated the Contract Clause because it did not require mutual consent and created an involuntary contract. The court found no clear indication of statutory intent to create a contract between operators and non-consenting owners, and thus that the state had not violated the Contract Clause through exercise of its police powers. It therefore dismissed the suit.