Cotenancy and Other Decisions of the OGCC Can Be Challenged!
West Virginia’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“OGCC”) can have hearings and make orders regarding just and reasonable terms in forced cotenancy leases. It also has the power to force-pool and grant spacing of statutory “deep” wells (such as the Utica). Its decisions can be appealed to Circuit Court.
Unfortunately Governor Jim Justice has appointed two members of this five person Commission who do not represent the public and who WVSORO believes are not qualified under the statute to serve on the Commission. WVSORO therefore believes that any unfavorable decision of the OGCC that goes against a mineral owner can be challenged!
Please contact us if you are in this situation so we can help, and also so we can keep track of results and challenges. Keeping track of results and challenges will help us try to make statutory changes to the Board in the next Legislative session in order to make it more balanced.
Here are the basics:
The composition of the OGCC is set out in statute.
Two members are the head of DEP and the head of the Office of Oil and Gas. One member is required to represent small oil and gas drillers. It is the fourth and fifth members who are not qualified.
The worst appointment by the Governor is the member who is supposed to be the “public” member. The OGCC web site itself reveals his appointment does not represent the public. (Here is a screen shot of the web site, but this version may be easier to read. This member, Mr. McCown, was in the past the President of two different industry organizations and is now an expert witness for the industry. He obviously is not a member of the public. The public includes the consumers who are the ultimate consumers of the gas, mineral owners who are force pooled into units, mineral owners next to those units, mineral owners with partial ownership of a mineral tract who are forced by the 2018 Cotenancy Statute to accept one of the leases entered into by other owners. The indirect result of good decisions by the Commission can protect surface owners. Her is our press release that blasted the Governor when that appointment was made.
The other unlawful appointment by Jim Justice is the fifth person, the chairman, Randall Albert. The Chairman, is required by the statute we noted above to have a degree in petroleum engineering or geology. Again the OGCC web site linked to above sets out the Chairman’s qualifications, but none of them include a degree in petroleum engineering or geology.
So again, if you have or are considering a proceeding in the OGCC, please contact us for help and so we can keep track of the Commissions activities.