With the Crowder case finally decided in favor of surface owners by the West Virginia Supreme Court, surface owners can now (with rare exceptions) refuse to allow their surface to be used for a well pad for horizontal wells. Read our web page on this for more details.
However, some surface owners may be willing to put up with a well pad for the right money and with the right surface usage conditions. The papers to be signed by you and the driller to allow for use of your land are usually called a “surface use agreement” or “consent” or “easement” or lots of things. There is no legal/formal name for them. The important thing is what they say.
We advise that the surface owner should only sign papers allowing for the use of their land for a well pad or other disturbances for a payment in the amount the well pad is worth to the driller, and not what its current use is worth to the surface owner. We know of one horizontal Marcellus Shale well pad with nine wells on it that over thirty years will generate gas with a gross value of over one-third of a Billion dollars. Yes that was a B! We already have started a web page to help surface owners negotiating papers with appropriate protections for the surface owner’s use and enjoyment of their land.
However, we need to flesh it out and expand on it. We are doing our own research based on the WVU studies that the DEP paid for after the passage of the 2011 Natural Gas Horizontal Well Act. But we would also like to hear from surface owners themselves about two things.
First, what favorable protection provisions were you able to get in the papers? Please contact us and let us know! We will let other people know so they can decide if they want it too. Also, how much did you get paid? (A caution: Very often these papers had confidentiality clauses prohibiting the surface owner from sharing what was in the papers, at least for the amount of the payment. If yours had a confidentiality clause read it carefully and make sure that what you would like to send us does not violate that.)
Second, what are the issues that bothered you most during the drilling, and then the production phases; and what provisions do you wish you had in your agreement — for issues like lights, noise, roads, etc. etc. Knowing that will help guide us in putting more materials on our website.