Attorneys Urge Mineral Owners To Collaborate

Property owners receiving royalties from oil and gas work were told that working together is critical to their negotiations.

A small crowd met with a panel of attorneys, legislators and interest groups Tuesday to discuss matters facing property owners. Attorney Christian Turak was on hand to explain legal precedent and the history of language used in leases, as well as what royalty owners could do to maximize their own benefit.

“What you’re all doing tonight, that’s a good first step,” Turak said. “There’s strength in numbers here. The more we act as a community, the more formidable we are. These are multi-billion, multinational corporations. I deal with people in Denver, Houston, Fort Worth, every day. … See an attorney. That’s what we’re here for.”

An audience member questioned if a lack of a decision on the proposed ethane cracker plant across the river in Dilles Bottom has had an effect on industry in the area. Turak said that not only has the indecision not hampered business, but oil and gas work was undergoing a boom.

“They’ve been most actively drilling in the last year than they have, pretty much ever,” Turak said. We see no indication that they’ll be slowing down, no indication that they’re waiting for the cracker plant to be announced. Everyone’s waiting for the cracker plant to be announced. The industry changes quickly, and there’s no indication that they’re slowing down.”

Over the course of the roughly 90-minute meeting, many royalty owners expressed concerns about individual scenarios on a case-by-case basis.

On a legislative front, Delegate Joe Canestraro argued against the March passage of West Virginia Code 37B-1-1, which permits the leasing of oil and gas interests owned by seven or more people if 75 percent of co-owners agree to the lease.

“I did not vote on the co-tenancy bill — in my mind, it’s nothing but forced pooling lite, and it takes away the negotiation powers of you, me, and all other royalty owners” Canestraro said. “In my mind, I’m there to support the constituents, not multi-million dollar out-of-state companies.”

Canestraro said that, as a member of the minority party in the House of Delegates, he was limited on how he could have acted to prevent the bill’s passage.

“The response I got when I tried to amend the bill in the judiciary committee in the House was, ‘Why doesn’t the individual property owner hire a lawyer and file it themselves?'” he said. “My response was, these companies have already done this work. What is it to them to provide one more piece of paper? And of course, it got beat in committee.”

Canestraro said he would work alongside Lisa Zukoff, who was elected delegate earlier this month, to support a bill that would give oil and gas severance tax money back to the counties rather than to the state. He comment drew applause from the crowd.

Zukoff was present to ask questions of her own, and to hear community concerns before wading into the political fray.

Representing the West Virginia Royalty Owners Association was President Tom Huber, and representing the National Association of Royalty Owners was interim president Valerie Antonette.

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