Wednesday, December 05, 2012
A rancher must sell out after losing a court case against a gas company
It was a hot day in the summer of 2009, and Dow Rippy was out on his four-wheeler in western Colorado, checking on his cows.
As he drove, tracing the southern edge of his property, Rippy followed the route of a gas pipeline that the Houston-based gas company, SG Interests, was building across the ranch.
Dow and his wife, Kathy, owned about 1,900 acres of hilly oak brush south of Silt, Colo., near the heart of Colorado’s gas patch. They had acquired the land over 15 years, though Dow’s family had been ranching in the area since they originally emigrated from Scotland in the late 1860s, after the Civil War.
In 2007, Dow signed a contract allowing SG Interests to build a pipeline across his land. The agreement established a 30-foot-wide corridor for the pipeline and required the company to repair fences and slopes along its route. Yet as Dow reached the southeastern edge of his ranch on that day in 2009, he noticed not only that a section of pipeline had been left unburied; it also appeared to be well outside of the boundary allowed in his contract.
Dow had always been a fierce defender of his property rights, and this made him angry. He ordered SG pipeline workers to leave until he had spoken to the company’s managers, and then he closed his gate, locking their equipment inside.
Dow didn’t know it then, but that day marked the beginning of the end of his ranching career. This past October, he put his ranch up for auction to settle a court battle with SG Interests. He’d lost that battle, and was ordered to pay the company more than $700,000 in damages.