CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates has passed legislation that would make it easier for natural gas drillers and mineral rights owners in West Virginia to open large pools of gas for drilling. HB 2688 passed 60-40 Wednesday following more than two hours to debate.

The bill creates a commission that can approve shallow and deep well gas drilling on large tracts of land using a procedure called “forced pooling” or “lease integration” to bring holdout rights holders into the drilling pool.

The controversial bill created an unlikely coalition of opponents including conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats who argued the bill allows for an unconstitutional taking of a person’s property.

“When you say that I’m going to take something that you own and I’m going to tell you what I’m going to pay for it and I’m going to use it whether you want me to or not, that’s a taking,” said Del. Tim Manchin (D-Marion), who voted against the bill.

Supporters, however, prevailed with the argument that the bill is a compromise that recognizes property rights, but also enables majority owners to sell their mineral rights and ensures that holdouts are properly compensated.

“You would enjoy the benefit of those resources. You would be paid a royalty and a bonus payment based on an agreement from the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, so you’re going to be compensated for that,” said Del. Woody Ireland (R-Ritchie) who worked with interested parties to craft the bill.

Under the bill, a driller must obtain consent from at least 80 percent of the rights holders–one of the highest thresholds in the nation–and make a good faith effort to include everyone before making a request to the commission to force the minority owners into the pool.

If the commission approves the request, the holdout rights owners have three options: 1) Sell their rights to the other owners 2) Participate in the drilling 3) Sublease the rights. In each case, if the holdout owners cannot agree with the other party on the price, the commission will determine what is “just and reasonable.” The bill also says surface owners’ property above gas deposits forced into the pool cannot be disturbed.

Gas industry officials have called forced pooling the “missing link” that will allow West Virginia to maximize its vast Marcellus and Utica shale gas deposits. Additionally, it will allow rights holders who want to sell their gas, but have been held up by reluctant neighbors, to exercise their options.

The bill still has to be approved by the Senate before the end of the session March 14 and then be signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin if it is to become law. At least 34 states have some form of forced pooling.

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Comments

  • Dan Warner

    HB 2688 is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

    Here is a link to the list of the Judiciary Committee members. Copy it, and paste it into your browser address window, then click on a members name to get their contact info:

    http://www.legis.state.wv.us/committees/senate/SenateCommittee.cfm?Chart=jud

    If the bill passes the Judiciary, it will go before the full Senate. Here is the web address of the full Senate member roster:

    http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Senate1/roster.cfm

    With the recent snow/flooding, I haven't been able to research the Senators' position, so I can't advise you on which members are for the bill and which are opposed.

    You may wish to research it yourself, and contact those who are opposed first. I doubt that it will help to harass the supporters, as in most of those cases, the industry fix is likely already in.

  • Mari very concerned

    This is just forced robbery. Get help at WV Surface Owner Rights Association. http://www.wvsoro.org or
    http://www.mountainstatesman.com/v2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=3513&page=72
    These corporations don't have to pool in specific ways. They can go around private land. How does one person not leasing their land affect a company buying mineral rights from someone else who is willing to sell. Let the drilling straight down and pump it into tankers. They don't have to drill under an unwilling neighbors. Liars and thieves. They are private corporations period. We should be going wind and solar. It's private land and mineral rights they want to steal. It's the owner's right to hold their mineral rights until they are worth more. Out o state corporations have sat on mineral rights for decades. At least homeowners, should not be forced to have their mineral rights taken. Fracking is messy, and releases toxic substances and carcinogenics. It contaminates wells and the air. Roads are damaged.Whose going to pay for that. The taxpayer. People get sick. It lowers land values. " “When a landowner leases their land, they’re putting all these effects that we know happen — increased fatalities, increased illnesses, increased birth defects, contaminated groundwater, contaminated surface water, lower property values, all of those things come to a community when somebody chooses to lease their minerals.” "Forced" pooling. Its theft. They have no right to our land or to go under it. Fracking will endanger our water and air quality. See articles at http://ohvec.org/
    S http://ohvec.org/rogersville-shale-next-for-wv/
    See http://waterdefense.org/content/epa-water-test-results-prove-fracking-contamination-dimock or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQO-tyv8AFU or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znFOo7CloVg or http://catskillcitizens.org/learnmore/subrapptext.PDF

  • James Beckett

    I have owned a mineral tract in Taylor Co, WV for over 20 years. I have tried to negotiate a good faith oil and gas lease to get a well drilled. One owner out of state has done their best to hold all parties hostage and keep the other 95% ownership from getting any revenues from the oil and gas tract. Another outside company has a well pad already built, waiting for us to get a valid lease from all parties to drill under our tract and disturb no surface above our minerals. It is a crying shame that one individual can basically hold up a process that all the oil and gas owners could benefit from. This is a perfect scenario of why this law is needed.

  • Rachel Glascock

    Who does the Senate think they are? They were voted in by the voters of WV! I am a landowner and I will be damned if I want someone coming on my land looking to line their pockets with what is under it. I pay property taxes for my land - The politicians in Charleston are our servants we are not theirs. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin needs to veto this bill. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS BILL WAS EVEN INTRODUCED - WHAT LOBBYISTS HAVE THESE SENATORS IN THEIR "POCKETS?"

  • James Reed

    Please let me know who I can contact for repealing this decision. This is not only unethical but constitutionally illegal. I currently have thousands invested in an open court case fighting drilling in Preston County. I'd like to open a suit against everyone that voted in favor of this now that my current case has been nullified, so I can get my money back. I'm sure our lawyers will be happy to press it as they've already spent 3 years of their time in it.

  • scott blair

    It's called amendment. You don't like it. Amend it. Or move. China may be more to your liking.

  • scott blair

    Metro News. Now it's time to be a real news agency. Follow the bribe money it took for this theft of West Virginian citizens. Yes this theft happens in hundreds of ways anymore. Only reason why. No one to hold them accountable. Time for prison sentences. Do your job.

  • Charleston Lawyer

    "Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

    The Constitution guarantees numerous rights, but none of them are unfettered. They are always subject to time, place and manner restrictions.

  • Charleston Lawyer

    Kelo decision is not relevant because pooling is not eminent domain.

    The US Supreme Court has consistently held that this practice is constitutional and squarely within the state's police powers.

    Those who label this a "taking" is simply uninformed.

  • ViennaGuy

    wvu999 clearly ignored the fact that a number of Republicans voted against it and a number of Democrats voted for it.

    No matter, he'll just blame ALL of the Republicans and ignore ALL of the Democrats!

  • Bob

    Yep...

  • Bob

    Small landowners throughout the mid-west are being looted of their mineral resources by a consortium of firms including ExxonMobil, XTO, Phillips Resources, that have conspired with federal judges like U.S. District Judge John R. Adams of the Northern District of Ohio who have made the transfer of mineral rights less than that required to sell a used car. Why would any honorable person make a distinction between that property which is above the ground versus that which is below? There is no good explanation other than to enrich themselves and their partners at the expense of small landowners...

  • Bob

    Individuals have the right to do with their property as they see fit. Seizing that right for any commercial purpose is simply not just under any circumstances, regardless of the rationalizing spewed forth to justify this brand of theft...

  • Larry

    The article misrepresents the Bill in that it says "a driller must obtain consent from at least 80 percent of the rights holders". This is not correct. It is 80% of the acreage, not rights holders. So If one rights holder owns 80% of the acreage in a proposed pooling unit, and the remaining 20% of the acreage is owned by a dozen other owners, that one minority holder will prevail despite the wishes of the others.

  • FWare

    Could any legal or legislative experts out there comment on whether the Kelo v New London case has had any impact on this issue?

    Also if (when) this makes it into the courts, how does current state/federal law stand on denying someone the opportunty to sell or profit from their property?

    Vice versa, were would it stand on forcing someone to sell their minerals or property?

    Leaving the factional perspectives aside, this sounds like an issue where someone will have to give up rights to either sell or keep something...individual rights will lose either way.

  • YEP

    See if the Dem Gov vetoes it or not.

  • YEP

    Or one owner with the largest stake cold force many smaller owners to do what they want. Companies can now work that magic percentage to manipulate the system.

  • James Lydon

    Royalty owners of this state only want a fair deal. This bill takes that right away from them and the state will set the terms. The Free Enterprise System may be dead in WV.

  • YEP

    RAPED AGAIN!!

  • Bill MC

    Looks to me like about three fourths of the people that post here as well as live here really should live in New York State. Democrats are in control there and do everything correct. New Yorkers are so smart they even voted for Obama. I am sure they would look out for your welfare so much better than West Virginia.
    West Virginian's voted for the mean old Republicans, did not vote for Obama and are so dumb they don't even know what a big mistake they made!
    Poor old Hoppy he can't even commit on anything that happens in Charleston without him being accused of being in bed with the Republicans. But Chris Matthews or Al Sharpton can say anything they want and no one would say they are in bed with the Democrats. It's a strange world we live in!
    For the rest of what needs screwing up there is Obama, he's your man.

  • wvu999

    Less Government
    Less Government
    Lets pass a bill that doesnt let you have any control of your property and rights.
    Less government until the government does what I want it to do.... Republicans 2015

  • ViennaGuy

    So that exempts the Democrats from criticism here?

    If Republicans who voted for the bill are ripe for criticism, shouldn't the Democrats also be ripe for it?

  • Rodney Hytonen

    ..."Mountaineers Are Always Free...or at least VERY cheap.... to bribe."

  • Rodney Hytonen

    Again, this would not have passed - AND DIDN'T- in a Democratic majority.

    I blame the idiots watching Fox news and Limbaugh's lies to vote.

  • Rodney Hytonen

    EXACTLY.

  • Rodney Hytonen

    NO royalty can possibly compensate you for the FACT that forced pooling allows them to come on your land THAT YOU LIVE ON, whenever and do whatever they want.

    There is no such thing as a lease that doesn't include SURFACE RIGHTS; and if there were, it would not be enforced, enforceable, or honored by in WV by this IRRESPONSIBLE INDUSTRY's contractors etc - IN REALITY.
    They CLAIM it's for absent and unlocatable part owners, but it's NOT USED THAT WAY IN REALITY.
    What this INDUSTRY WITHOUT BOUNDARIES really wants, is places to park their leaking chemical tanks and "stage" their huge equipment.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    What is so crazy about that ? They own the land , they own the mineral rights . They aren't building an interstate or a bridge . The extraction of natural gas isn't an issue that benefits the community at large . So if I own it - why should I have to be forced to give it up with a gun pointed at my head ?

  • whatamoroon

    You do realize that without this bill, one property owner could in fact veto the wishes of an entire neighborhood. Now that is power! I think that if 80% want to sell their rights, that's enough of a majority to satisfy me. Unfortunately, I've lived next to many crazy neighbors with their own lunatic agenda.

  • Huggsisback

    I still don't understand how someone can own property but not the mineral rights on that property. I know this been the law for years and years but it is obvious to me, this was just another way for the wealthy to legally steal from landowners!!! Do other states have a law similar to this?

  • Stan

    Don't waste your time with these morons.
    They keep saying that the republicans are working for corporations and not the people while they completely overlook the fact that this bill allows a MAJORITY of PROPERTY OWNERS to sell their gas without having a one angry tree hugger stop them.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    I'm surprised that the leadership of the Rep Party allowed the name of the bill to included " forced pooling " . I thought they would try to hide that fact by naming it something like " The neighborhood harvest act " or " Compulsory pro fossil fuel act of 2015 " How about "Utilization and cooperative natural gas act of 2015 " .

  • Jeff

    Anyone who voted for it should be tossed and have their property forfeited. The question is would this bill have passed with a Dem majority? Hmm

  • Nemo

    I fail to see why the legislation being passed by "these representatives of the people" is surprising to anyone.

  • Jeff

    He will gladly sign this POS. Hope I am wrong

  • Jeff

    Individual rights and freedoms are what the repubs run on. And they can't even live up to that!

  • ViennaGuy

    Agreed!

  • ViennaGuy

    What about the Democrats who supported it? Are you going to defeat them, too?

  • Ron from Morgantown

    Now the Reb are telling landowners who own the gas rights to neg w large corporate drillers or the gas w be forcefully taken from you . Nice . 2016 can't get here quick enough . Organize Now ! Defeat the Republicans !

  • Frank from Clarksburg

    Do not paint with too broad a brush. The article clearly states that conservative republicans and liberal democrats opposed the bill. This should lead one to believe that the "middle" of both parties, thosethat everyone says we need more of in politics, are the people who supported this bill.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    The beauty of this bill is that it's headed nowhere . That if the Gov is opposed . He has 15 days to sign a bill and the session ends in 10 days . So the bill will just sit until the session is over and then he will veto it . Case closed .

  • ViennaGuy

    There were both Republicans and Democrats who opposed it. Did you read the article? Where is your disdain for the Democrats who supported it?

  • mitch

    "HOUSE PASSES GAS" (bill).

  • richard

    This is absolutely sickening. The republican party foams at the mouth for the rights of people, unless it happens to go against big business's wishes.

  • liberty4all

    Completely against this bill for its taking of other's property without their consent. One of the worst things WV ever did was separate mineral from surface rights.

  • liberty4all

    Last I checked Del. Manchin is a trial attorney and the article indicated his opposition.

  • Wilma Fingerdoo

    Hoppy is a shameful man, slobbering on the schlongs of the GOP

  • Retired Soldier

    We need a new state motto..."Mountaineers Are Always Free...Except In Regard To Their Mineral Rights."

  • Highlands

    Dear d!psh!ts,
    The farmers put you in office and now you do this. The filthy trial lawyer's money may have fallen on deaf ears without this stab in the back. If the Senate follows suit, you have turned this State back over to those vultures for another 80 years.
    Thanks,
    Conservative

  • wvrefugee

    I love it!! Stupid people voted for these clowns!

  • Jim K

    When we opened up trade with China the line was that by trading with them we would make China more like the US.

    However when you see private business taking peoples land, right to work and repeal of prevailing wage legislation to lower salaries, and lawsuit reform that gives citizens no legal way to fight business you can see we have become more like CHINA not the other way around.

  • ViennaGuy

    This smacks of the kind of eminent domain the city of New London, Connecticut used which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision. To be fair, it is not *exactly* the same, but the elements of government taking one's private property and giving it to another private entity are similar ... and I'm not sure that I like it.

  • Jeff

    This is disgusting. Who would've thought the repubs take control and make it legal for big business to seize an individual's private property. Wake up you wankers

  • Hoppy Kercheval

    I love with big business destroys the environment. They have lined my pockets with gold to print the stories.