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Grynberg v. Northglenn - 739 P.2d 230, 1987 Colo. LEXIS 564, 95 Oil & Gas Rep. 28

Rule:

A geophysical trespasser is one who conducts geophysical operations upon the lands of another without permission or consent. Such an explorer may also be deemed a trespasser where the consent or permission obtained is for any reason ineffectual, or where the operations conducted are in excess of the consent or permission granted.

Facts:

Plaintiff Jack J. Grynberg, the owner of a coal lease from the State of Colorado, filed this action, claiming that his rights were violated when defendant City of Northglenn drilled a test hole within the lease boundaries without Grynberg's permission and disclosed the results of the test in a report filed in the public records of the state engineer. The test results showed an absence of commercially recoverable coal deposits. The City had drilled the hole with the permission of the owner of the severed surface estate for the purpose of determining the suitability of the area as a site for a wastewater reservoir. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendant Northglenn and the other defendants, all of whom had participated in drilling the test hole, based on the finding and conclusion that they had no actual or constructive notice of Grynberg's lease, which had not been recorded in the county real estate records, and that the defendants were entitled to the protection of Colorado's recording statute, section 38-35-109(1), 16A C.R.S. (1982). The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed.  Grynberg petitioned the Supreme Court of Colorado for certiorari review.

Issue:

Does the lease owner possess the authority to question the drilling conducted by the city even if the driller has received permission from the owner of the surface estate?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

After review, the state supreme court concluded that the owner of the surface estate could not authorize the City's exploration for minerals and that the lease owner could assert a cognizable legal claim based upon the city's exploration without his consent. Further, this court held that the Colorado Recording Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-35-109(1) (1982), did not insulate the City from liability for exploring the site without the consent of the state as the mineral owner or the lease owner.

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