Beef Association holds gas drilling meeting

PARKERSBURG – As drilling and well development for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale make their way into the Mid-Ohio Valley, landowners need to be aware of what developers may do to their land and how they may be compensated for what comes out of those wells, speakers said.

The Wood County Beef Association’s Farmers Short Course series held a meeting Thursday at the Judge Black Annex in Parkersburg to discuss oil and gas lease laws and other issues landowners might have in dealing with these issues. Attorneys Scott and Rod Windom from Harrisville along with James Lydon from the Wirt County Oil and Gas Group were the featured speakers.

More than 50 people, mostly area farm owners, attended the meeting. Many had concerns about what their rights would be if they allowed drilling on their lands.

Others worried about the possible impacts these wells and drilling operations would have to their farms, the health of their livestock and the safety of the wells they use for drinking water.

Others wondered when they should participate in leasing their lands for drilling and whether gas companies would be able to come onto their properties to do work based on who holds certain rights to what is on and under their land, regardless of what the landowner wanted.

A Mineral Wells resident who did not want to be identified had more than 250 acres of land he was looking into the possibility of leasing. He wanted to see if it might be something he wanted to pursue.

“I wanted to see what was true and what was fiction,” he said. “I am assuming that is what everyone is doing here. They are trying to get a little bit of an education on this.”

The Windoms went over how the leasing activity in the Marcellus Shale area is done as well as the legal aspects affecting the industry and the landowners or the mineral owners.

“Surface damages are a big concern,” Scott Windom said. “We have several clients who are farmers who lost hay production, lost water, had pollution issues and have lost animals to contaminated water and soil.”

They have done work to draft agreements that address issues.

“If a company comes onto your property, you need to make sure of where they are going, what they are doing and how long they will be there,” Scott Windom said.

Fracking, the use of sand, water, and chemicals injected at high pressures to blast open shale rock and release the trapped gas inside, is a concern for many people who use wells for drinking water or have water sources that supply their livestock, he said.

The Windoms said they have seen farm country transformed into industrial sites with activity on some going 24 hours a day.

“These are like small cities,” Scott Windom said. “It is an industrial complex. It is an issue if you are living next to it.”

Rod Windom said many well operations are just starting to come to areas like Ritchie County, but Tyler and Wetzel counties have seen the establishment of operations.

“A lot of the activity has not come into this area yet,” he said. “It is creeping into Ritchie County.

“We have a unique opportunity to see what has been wrong and what has been right in other places and learn from that so we can take a proactive approach to it in this area.”

“It is important that you consult with a lawyer before you engage in any of these negotiations and before you put any ink to paper,” Rod Windom said.

Lydon of the Wirt County Oil and Gas Group is involved with landowners who have joined together 67,000 acres to market to gas companies for development of natural gas. He talked about drawing up an agreement between companies and landowners that is fair to everyone involved.

Lydon talked about the importance of landowners talking things through with a lawyer on how important the lease language is to them and the producer.

“There has to be a balance,” Lydon said. “The company has to be able to make a profit, but the landowner should be paid for everything that comes out of the hole.”

Some contracts have the potential to go on for 100 years or so.

“It could be the most important thing they ever sign in their lifetime,” Lydon said. “If they do it right, it works.

“A lawyer should be involved in drafting that contract. It not only protects them, but protects the producer as well.”