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Group Invests For Future Generations

February 22, 2012
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

If you or your loved ones are fortunate enough to sign a Marcellus or Utica shale natural gas lease, you may be able to ensure a steady source of income for a number of years. And that could mean stability within your family for generations to come.

"It is hard for me to really describe what this is going to mean" for families, said Larry Cain, chairman of the Smith-Goshen Landowners Group. "This is such a great opportunity for so many people."

Belmont County continues to be a hotbed for Utica Shale activity, as the Smith-Goshen group is looking to lease more than 47,000 acres to a company satisfying its terms. The group is so-named because 85 to 90 percent of the acreage lies within the Smith and Goshen townships, right in the heart of Belmont County. Communities included in these townships are Bethesda, Belmont, Centerville, Jacobsburg, Lamira and Warnock. The remaining acreage is found in surrounding townships. Though Cain did not want to discuss the exact monetary terms his group of about 400 property owners is seeking, he said the amount could well exceed $5,000 per acre. Even at a minimum of $5,000 per acre, 47,000 acres would yield $235 million in lease payments for the Belmont County owners.

"If we can bring checks like this into the area, it can be a life-altering event," Cain said. "This is going to impact us for generations because they say these wells can produce for many years."

Though there is a dispute between coal mining interests and natural gas companies in eastern Ohio right now, both Cain and industry representatives believe the matter will be resolved.

"We just want the opportunity to lease our acres. With horizontal drilling technology, there should be minimal impact to coal operations," said Cain.

Fact Box

Q: How has the natural gas industry, through leases and royalty payments to landowners, benefited folks raising a family?

A: Depending on the terms of a lease, a family that invests its windfall wisely could be financially set for generations.

As the Belmont-Goshen group waits to sign a lease, other landowners have signed leases for amounts as high as $5,900 per acre with 21 percent of production royalties. These lease agreements can give local families the chance to pay off bills, establish college funds for children or grandchildren, or even start businesses of their own. Above all else, financial experts say it's important for families that have signed such agreements with a natural gas company to properly prepare for tax burden and the future.

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