Today we got some very good news. We posted our refusal letter (copied below) and then discovered that two of the big land owners in the "pool" also rejected the offer. We have had a stay of execution. The bad news is that another company is nosing around, so we may go through this again. We will be better prepared this time, however, because we have had time to find some legal help and will keep our wits about us a little better...maybe!
Our biggest problem today is what to do with the excessive fruit harvest. We'll pick it all and take it to the senior center. Mind boggling how much surplus a happy tree can produce!
Ironwill letter of rejection
We are in receipt of your offer on behalf of _________Energy, LLC. We understand that our reply was to be in your hand by June 13, 2014. Herewith our reply:
1. We live on a small property which is intensely designed and built to produce our own food, water and energy as we have retired on a fixed income. Our goal is precisely to reduce our carbon footprint so as to obviate the need for your production of fossil fuels. The irony of your intentions and our objectives is not lost on us.
2.We understand all too well that we do not have controlling ownership of the minerals underneath our property and that _______ Oil and its subsidiary contractors may do whatever they wish to obtain their leased product under our land—including drilling a water well and withdrawing (and potentially polluting) millions of gallons of fresh water from the aquifer we now depend on.
3. We are especially dependent on our shallow well. We will be required to begin monitoring it monthly now for a full year to establish a “baseline” of quality that we fear will be compromised by nearby “fracking.” After reading the terrifying accounts of toxic waste and negligence in Wise County recently, we are doubly concerned that our well (as well as our aquaculture ponds) will be contaminated with hydrocarbons such as toluene and benzene. If we hire an independent lab, the fee the nearest lab quoted us for one test of one sample for Benzene alone is $600. We need 12 of those for a baseline and then at least three (3) years of testing after you begin production. Chain of custody requires them to travel and sample themselves. Exceedence of the published EPA standard for each pollutant would be the deciding line for redress by _______ Oil after a year of monitoring. Your contract requires us to bear this burden of expense. You can do the math. Your current offer would not even pay for testing, let alone a new well or mitigation of the existing one.
4. We have read your pro-forma lease with its terms decidedly in favor of _______ Oil and against us as small landowners. To our surprise we have been asked to sign a non-disclosure contract BEFORE we know the terms of the “final” contract. ______ Oil can and will proceed to do whatever disturbance and property damage they wish with or without or signatures. Our only chance for redress, unless you re-write the contract more fairly, is in the court of public opinion. We therefore cannot sign the confidentiality agreement at this time.
5. We, however, would like to plead with you and your clients to consider our situation and re-draft your offer and conditions to better protect our life-long investment and our future retirement on this tiny property. We respectfully request that you include a clause that will promise us that no drilling of any kind will occur on our eleven (11) acres and that you will not create or maintain drilling or storage pits and no pipeline will cross or enter our property during the period of this lease.
6. With regard to your initial offer of prepayment (your point #2 “purchase price”) for the lease of surface property (based as it is on a per-acre sum), we ask you to consider that any activity by _______ Oil on this small property will do disproportionately greater damage than on the neighbors’ holdings due to the fact that they own large tracts and are absentee landlords who do not live here. They are able to retain legal counsel and have resources to seek redress. We cannot. Unless this contract reflects our particular burdens up-front, we will not be able to mitigate any damage, let alone sue for damages. Our only recourse (should you refuse our requests) will be to walk away from our Life-Place after investing over 20 years of work and almost a half million dollars in structures and research to live off-grid and within our fixed Social Security income. We have no alternative place to move to or to begin again, even if we had the resources to do so. We feel morally (one human being to another) obliged to ask you to represent our concerns to your clients.
7. We hereby request a modified and more fair contract offer from you. We have not had enough to time to obtain legal (necessarily pro-bono) counsel on this matter, so we are beholden to you for any misspoken words or delays due to our ignorance. We respect the rights of _______ Oil under current Texas Law to obtain the product below and “severed” from our surface property. Rest assured, we will not intentionally interfere or delay their plans to obtain said product. We would like to know when they plan to begin surveying and then drilling as soon as these plans are available.
We trust that you will give our particular situation due consideration and re-write a contract in a timely manner that reflects our concerns and limited resources.