On January 18th, 2003 the Bureau of Land Management released the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the development of 40,000 new coalbed methane wells to be drilled over the next decade in the Powder River Basin. Eight million acres in the Basin will be opened up to drilling. Over three quarters of the development will take place on privately owned surface overlying minerals owned and controlled by the BLM. This mixed ownership of surface and minerals is known as the “split estate”, and under current law the rights of the mineral lessee are dominant over the surface owner. This situation places a significant burden on the surface owner.
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