Share This Page

Pa. House bill would let drillers pool land

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The state House passed a bill Friday evening that would make it easier for drilling companies to pool land into drilling units, angering some advocates who believe it undercuts landowners' rights.

The bill could have its biggest effect in Western Pennsylvania, where many people hold oil and gas leases signed decades before the shale drilling boom, experts said. They can often try to block drilling or negotiate better terms because their contracts don't expressly allow the land to be combined into the bigger units common in horizontal drilling.

The bill instead would give drilling companies the right to pool that land unless the old contracts expressly forbid it, which they usually don't, experts said.

“This is like stabbing us in the back,” said Jackie Root, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners. “There should be an opportunity for those mineral owners to negotiate ... and this is going to completely take that opportunity away.”

The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee — without opposition — passed the provision on Tuesday as an amendment to a bill largely about the rights of royalty recipients. Its sponsor, Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming County, could not be reached for comment. It does have support, including a 167-33 House floor vote on Friday and from Gov. Tom Corbett's administration.

Corbett's energy executive, Patrick Henderson, said he disagreed with Root and several lawyers who said it could undercut the rights of landowners.

Anybody who tries to renegotiate or block drilling runs the risk of drilling companies putting wells directly on their property to meet terms of the old lease, Henderson said. The provision will encourage efficient, horizontal drilling by smoothing the way for companies to create larger units, he said.

“I would disagree with the assertion that landowners are going to see the short end on this,” Henderson added. “The governor would not be supportive of something that would change the ability of landowners to fairly negotiate for their property rights.”

The bill will now go back to the Senate, where it started.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.