CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lobbyists for West Virginia’s gas industry will not be making another run at forced pooling legislation during the upcoming legislative session, according to the executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.
Instead, Anne Blankenship said they’re focused on two other proposals designed to open up the Marcellus and Utica shales in the Mountain State to more horizontal drilling: (1) joint development and (2) co-tenancy.
“Our proposals this year are really going to go after creation of more jobs, spur economic development, hopefully in a pretty big way, using our natural resources that we sit on top of that are just in abudance right now,” Blankenship said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Under joint development, the proposal will be to modify an existing statute so that natural gas from adjoining properties, those with owners who’ve already agreed to lease mineral rights, can be combined for drilling.
“It enables producers to develop existing leases using the modern technologies that we have and it allows landowners and neighbors to enjoy the benefits of less land disturbance, (while) at the same time increasing our oil and gas production,” Blankenship explained.
The gas producers will not change.
“We already have the lease in place,” she said. “This is a mechanism so that we can drill efficiently and you’re going to have less of a footprint.”
Currently, state law requires agreement from 100 percent of mineral rights owners before gas drilling can begin. The proposal lawmakers will see this year requires a simple majority, 51 percent, for gas development to proceed.
In some cases, Blankenship said, there can be hundreds of mineral ownership claims for a single property dating back decades.
“We really have highly fractionalized leases and different interest owners and there are lots of situations where you just have so many interest owners that you can’t even contact or reach some of them,” she said.
The 2017 Regular Legislative Session resumes on Wednesday and continues through Saturday, Apr. 8.
In prior years at the State Capitol, numerous attempts were made to get a separate, similar proposal for gas development, called forced pooling or lease integration, through the Legislature.
The bills took different forms over the years but, in general, forced pooling would have allowed for gas drilling on large tracts of land when permission for the work was obtained from 80 percent of mineral rights holders.
Other states, Blankenship argued, have taken such steps to keep up with the evolving gas industry.
“What we are attempting to do is really update our state laws so that we can be competitive with other states and also do it in, what we think, is a fair way,” she said.