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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  • Nemo

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

  • 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 !

    • ViennaGuy

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

      • 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

        • YEP

          See if the Dem Gov vetoes it or not.

  • 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 .

    • Jeff

      He will gladly sign this POS. Hope I am wrong

  • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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?

      • 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.

      • Jeff

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

        • 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?

        • 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.

          • 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.

  • 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.

    • ViennaGuy


  • 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."

    • Rodney Hytonen

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

  • 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.

    • liberty4all

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

  • 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.