Time for You to Contact Senators on Co-Tenancy Bill

HB 4268, a bill allowing for horizontal fracking under non-consenting property owners, passed out of the WV House of Delegates on February 15 with a 60 to 40 vote.

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Maury Johnson, a surface and mineral landowner from Greenville in Monroe County, WV, wrote to House Delegates about the bill: “HB 4268 will allow companies to force non-consenting property owners into a development unit against their will. If the consenting ‘co-tenants’ owning 75% of the rights in a would-be unit make a bad deal, the owners of the other 25% would be forced to accept the same deal… which is not only HORRIBLE, but also goes against the core values of land ownership in America. Often the lesser owners may want to hold out for a better price or they may be the residents of the property and do not want their property and homes to be impacted or developed at all.”

Maury asked lawmakers: “Please do not be complicit in allowing natural gas industry to bully and abuse our land and mineral owners. Property owners have the right to negotiate with the industry for what they feel benefits them and their land. We do not need state government setting the terms for our private property!”

At February 9 public hearing on HB 4268, Lissa Lucas attempted to make comments about oil and gas industry campaign contributions to House Energy Committee members, causing quite a stir. 

OVEC’s executive director witnessed that spectacle, and delivered her own remarks at the hearing:

Hello. I am Natalie Thompson, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Thank you to the chairman and to the committee today for hearing us today.

I am speaking in opposition of this bill. Our organization receives calls from landowners with concerns about oil and gas infrastructure, health concerns, air quality, air quality, water quality, noise pollution and light pollution concerns, and concerns about their rights and signing leases with the oil and gas companies who threaten them with eminent domain. I am here today to represent those folks who cannot take a day off work, or drive for many hours to get here at 8:30 on a Friday morning to attend this hearing on co-tenancy.

Co-tenancy sounds very vanilla doesn’t it? Well, if this bill is passed property owners will not have the benefit of a negotiation, a business transaction sealed with signing the bottom line, along with a handshake, and with an intention of a win-win scenario of both sides involved. What they could have with this bill is a 15-acre well pad, complete with massive trucks moving in and out of their neighborhoods, damaging and overtaking their roads, with cancer causing silica dust in the air, and bright lights and loud noises that keep them up at night. And what they won’t be saying is that the oil and gas company took their rights away from them, but what they will be able to say is that in 2018, WV lawmakers gave their property owners’ rights away.

This bill is unnecessary and invasive; currently a gas company can file a partition suit in order to acquire the use of the desired property for production. Are these the kind of business practices that we want in West Virginia?

Thank you.

As Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, said, “People are tired of having their rights stomped down whether it’s corporations or industry. They’re tired of it. We need to stand for the rights of individuals, not just close our eyes for economic development depriving a person’s constitutional rights.”

Take Action! The bill will now go to the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee, and then to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We urge you to call and/or email senators to let your voices be heard!

Follow these links for contact information for both committees:

WV Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee

WV Senate Judiciary Committee

 

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  1. But, according to SORO, last I heard a provision was included that said they can’t do this without the consent of the surface owner where the wellpad goes–and it won’t apply to mineral tracts with less than 7 owners. So they’re actually supporting it–in its current form. I wouldn’t be surprised if industry squeezes some last-minute amendments, or removal of amendments, to take out the good bits. And of course, even people who don’t live on the mineral tract with the wellpad are affected by the threat of lost or poisoned water, by the heavy truck traffic blocking and trashing their roads, by the air and light pollution. And sometimes the owner with the wellpad doesn’t live there, or lives at the far end of a large property, behind a hill, and some other neighbor is more affected by it. I think all surface owners should have veto rights, whether they own any mineral rights or not.

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