National Geographic : 2005 Jul
the water and how to get rid of it. Much of it goes into evaporation pits or reservoirs, and occasionally, I was told by Morrison and others, there have been overflows into nearby water courses, including the Tongue River. But against that downside, Zander cited benefits accruing to landowners. Most of the mineral rights in the basin are held by the BLM, the state, or indi viduals other than the residential and ranching folks who "own" the surface. Zander said "nui sance fees" are paid to the surface owners by most energy companies, as much as $2,000 for the first year of the life of a well pad, and $1,000 a year thereafter, plus smaller sums for road and pipeline access. "For a large rancher, that could add up to $30,000 a year-and that's just gravy." But there's another kind of gravy in Powder River country. It is the sludge that can come out of a homeowner's tap when CBM drillers de-water the aquifer feeding that homeowner's well and cistern. Consider the case of Allison and Richard Cole, who believed they had found their American dream in a comfortable five-bedroom house on high, open, rolling prairie ten miles north of Sheridan. "The wild, wonderful West just opened up to us," said Allison Cole. But soon their home and those of five other families were sitting within a horseshoe of two dozen CBM wells pumping methane and water from a for mation known as the Anderson coal seam.