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Forced Pooling, Production Addressed During Meeting


October 21, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

STEUBENVILLE - Ed Harshbarger claims a gas drilling official said his company would take his minerals by forced pooling if he refused to lease his 40 acres for natural gas development.

"They said they would just take my gas by forced pooling," Harshbarger said, noting the official was with Chesapeake Energy.

His land is located in the areas of Bloomingdale and Richmond.

"I am a veteran and a retired police officer. What right do they have to simply take my property?" he said.

Harshbarger spoke during the open session of a Thursday conference with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Ohio Oil & Gas Association Executive Vice President Tom Stewart.

However, when asked to comment later on Harshbarger's claims, Keith Fuller, a Chesapeake director of corporate development, said Chesapeake "refutes the claims made at this meeting."

Back at the meeting, Stewart told Harshbarger there are "a lot of landmen saying that" in reference to the claims of the drillers threatening to take his gas without a lease.

"They cannot take your oil and gas without you signing a lease," Stewart said during the open session. However, after the meeting, Stewart said the forced pooling provision does apply, but only after every other option is exhausted.

"If he is pooled in, he will be compensated for his gas," Stewart said of Harshbarger, noting the law would also forbid the gas company from using the surface area of the pooled land.

Later, Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Gentile said he has spoken to property owners who believe some gas companies will stick them with leases paying them $5 per acre at 12.5 percent royalties, when a gas driller reportedly paid as much as $6,000 per acre to acquire the leases from the company that originally held them.

"They have indicated they are going to bring in rigs and hold everything by production," Gentile said of the new leaseholder, noting this action would allow the company to lock the landowners in at the $5 and 12.5 percent rates.

Also, Belmont County Auditor Andy Sutak mentioned that gas drillers are tearing up local roads when they travel to disposal wells in his county.

When he asked Johnson if there was anything he could do to help the county gain some tax dollars to compensate for the road damage, Johnson said he would address the matter with Ohio state legislators.

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