Forced Utica shale pooling? Change the law
A 1961 state law that allows “forced pooling” for Utica shale natural gas — adding property to “drilling units,” regardless of landowners' wishes — must be repealed so more Pennsylvanians won't face the same nightmare as some Lawrence County property owners.
Among them is Bob Svetlak, 73, who opposes drilling on his 14.6-acre homestead. It's targeted by Hilcorp Energy Co., which aims — through a state Environmental Hearing Board filing — to force drilling there under the half-century-old law.
If Chief Judge Thomas W. Renwand in Pittsburgh allows Hilcorp's forced pooling, he'll decide what compensation Mr. Svetlak will receive. Such a “gun to the head” deal for this landowner would only compound the injustice of the 1961 law, which applies to the Utica shale, thousands of feet deeper than the Marcellus shale.
Hilcorp claims forced Utica shale pooling ensures landowners won't miss out on financial benefits when neighboring wells, using modern hydraulic fracturing and sideways drilling, tap oil and gas beneath their properties. But drilling should be landowners' choice — period.
Lacking even the inadequate landowner protection that Pennsylvania's new Marcellus forced-pooling law provides — allowing it only for properties already under leases that don't explicitly prohibit that practice — the law shreds private property rights. Patently unconstitutional, the 1961 law must be overturned. And state lawmakers must ensure that drillers respect and abide by owners' decisions regarding private properties.
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 â 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.