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Sunday December 17, 2017

Leaders of a group representing owners of mineral and royalty rights in Colorado have bolted from their national organization, which plans a push to retain its members in the state.

The board of what was the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) voted to separate and register with the state as the Colorado Alliance of Mineral and Royalty Owners (CAMRO).

“We didn’t feel like they (NARO) had enough horsepower to deal with the messaging required in the state of Colorado,” said Neil Ray, president of CAMRO.

The Colorado chapter became much more active in recent years after some environmental groups and local governments attempted to block or restrict drilling, which the group viewed as illegal and financially harmful to its members.

But Ray said messages the Colorado chapter wanted to make public had to clear through the NARO leadership in Tulsa, which left it less able to respond on short notice and contributed to missed opportunities, such as testifying before legislative committees.

“It gives us the ability to advocate and message freely with our members and with the state legislature,” Ray said of the split.

Another reason for the split was financial. NARO charged individual members $150 to join, of which $25 went back to state chapters. Given the battles mineral rights owners faced and continue to face in Colorado, the funding was inadequate, Ray said.

CAMRO is charging individual members $75 a year to join, and any money it raises in Colorado will stay in Colorado.

Ray estimates NARO Colorado counted about 425 members controlling a large share of the mineral rights in the state, but that upwards of 40,000 people benefit from mineral royalties.

The decision to separate didn’t go to members for a vote, and the new group will have to recruit members even as NARO launches an effort to retain its base in the state.

“Within days, we should be reincorporated in Colorado and we will roll the membership into the new organization,” said Jerry Simmons, executive director of NARO.

After the chapter is reformed, Simmons said a new board will be recruited and members encouraged to stay in NARO Colorado. NARO members may support both groups.

Simmons said NARO required a review of  e-mail blasts and other broad communications after some board members had misused membership lists to recruit for private business purposes.

He also said approvals with few exceptions came within two hours and disputed claims that NARO tried to curtail lobbying efforts or limit the public voice of local chapters.

In his 11 years running NARO, Simmons said he has seen other groups come and go claiming they can do a better job, but he has never faced a chapter defection.

Often, competing groups are funded by the oil and gas industry, whose interests often align with those of mineral rights owners but at times can conflict, which makes maintaining independence important.

“The biggest issue we have right now is post-production deductions,” he said of the royalty-lowering charges that producers pass on.

Mineral rights owners in Colorado face a specific set of challenges, including a proposed moratorium Broomfield may seek on oil and gas drilling. Ray said a stronger voice was needed than what NARO could provide.

“People who own those minerals rights aren’t represented as a constituent in the cities or the counties,” he said.

Many northern Front Range communities that are protesting drilling activity initially expanded on land sold to developers by farmers who retained the mineral rights.

That split made the land more affordable than it would have been otherwise, allowing for the construction of homes. But the rights also represented a future income stream for farmers and others that Ray said some communities want to take away by limiting access to those minerals.

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