LIVE OAK COUNTY — Striking oil for many drillers in the Eagle Ford Shale area has been like striking gold. However, as some landowners cash in, others like Leonard and Marie Popham are being left out.
Leonard had saved enough money to purchase 200 acres just outside Whitsett, Texas after he retired. This was all the couple said they ever wanted when they retired — just a small quiet ranch and a few horses. For income, the Pophams lease their property to hunters.
Last week, their retirement plans changed when they received a phone call from an oil company.
The company notified the Pophams that it owned the mineral rights for their property and would be out this month to start building as many as five oil drill pad sites on their land.
Texas law gives mineral rights owners the right to extract oil by any reasonable means necessary. No permission is needed from the landowner.
“One guy said we can even drill one in your living room if we wanted to," Leonard said. "I would have loved to have knocked him up beside the head.”
When Pophams purchased the land in Live Oak County nearly 20 years ago, the mineral rights stayed with the original owners under a verbal agreement that they would never drill. Unbeknownst to the Pophams, the rights were sold to an oil company when the original owners died.
"You just have to get in front of them and try and stop them from driving on your property and hope they don't run over you,” Leonard said.
His wife, Marie, quickly responded, "I don't think that will work."
Leonard replied, “I know that, but it's better than just sitting here and watching them do what they want."
The Pophams have put their ranch up for sale but without the mineral rights. So far, no one has been interested.
Looking out from his front porch at an oil drill on his neighbor’s property, Leonard said he sees his future and it’s not what he saved for all his life.