December 23, 2008
January 6, 2009 - Harrison County WV SORO Group to Hold Meeting with Legislators on Drilling & Surface Owners' Rights
A meeting of the local WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization (WVSORO) is scheduled for Tuesday, January 6 at 6:00PM at the Harrison County Senior Center in Clarksburg. The meeting with county legislators is intended to give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns about the current drilling activity in the area, to get a better understanding of legislators' positions on the Surface Owners' Bill of Rights and educate legislators about these issues so they will be better equipped to address them during the upcoming legislative session. Although we have some support for our efforts from the Harrison County delegation, we need our supporters in the legislature to do some heavy lifting to ensure that our bill passes, or at least clears some significant barriers during the 2009 legislative session. This is why your attendance and help in getting others to this (and other meetings with key legislators) is so important. Contact Julie (firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-346-5891) or Sharon (email@example.com or 304- 623-1245) for more information.
If you are willing to help arrange a meeting between local WV SORO members and legislators in your area, please contact Julie (firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-346-5891).
Legislators to Hear from Landowners' About Problems with Drillers - Date & Time TBA
Subcommittee A of the Joint Judiciary Committee is looking at existing laws and regulations for oil & gas drilling and how they should be updated to improve protection of both the public interest and the varying interests of surface owners. During the January interims (January 11-13) the committee will hear from landowners about the problems they have experienced in their dealings with drillers. This is not a public hearing however, we would like to pack the room with concerned landowners to show there is strong support for expanding and strengthening drilling laws and regulations to protect landowners from abuses. We'll pass along the details of the meeting once they become available and post them at www.wvsoro.org.
WV SORO Waiting for Ruling on Standing & Consolidation in Marcellus Well Spacing Appeal
As we noted in our fall newsletter, the Coal Association and others filed a motion to dismiss WV SORO's appeal in Kanawha County stating that WV SORO does not have "standing." WV SORO filed a response to the dismissal motion on the grounds that we can act on behalf of our members, that they have a property interest involved in the appeals and a constitutional right to be heard. The Coal Association motion and our response will not be ruled upon until Judge Murensky decides whether the cases should be consolidated into McDowell County or Kanawha County. He heard oral argument on that motion on November 10, 2008, and said he would send out a written decision soon. Click here for more information and background on the appeal.
Tawney Gas Royalties Case Settled; New Leases Allow Companies to Deduct Expenses
The settlement in a case over gas royalty disputes that prompted a prompted a $400 million jury verdict against Chesapeake Energy Corp. has officially been settled. In the Tawney case, the jury found Chesapeake guilty of shortchanging landowners by deducting production costs from the royalty payments owed to them. An October 24, 2008 article in the Charleston Gazette explains the settlement which is generally very good for the mineral owners. More news about when and how the money will be distributed can be found in this November 15, 2008 article in the Times Record & Roane County Reporter.
If you are a mineral owner whose wells are owned by Columbia Natural Resources, LLC (formerly Columbia Natural Resources, Inc.), NiSource Inc., Columbia Energy Group and Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., click here for more information. In addition to Chesapeake, four other gas producers had been named in separate suits, including Dominion Resources. According to a September article in the Charleston Gazette, Dominion Resources will pay up to $50 million to 25,000 oil & gas owners to resolve a lawsuit alleging that the company cheated them out of natural gas royalties. More information on the Dominion class action can be found here.
Unfortunately, while questions about their royalty payments have been settled in these lawsuits, for other royalty owners, problems may just be starting. Click here to read more about the new lease provisions the companies are using to continue the practices that got them in trouble in the Tawney case.
Additions & Changes to the WV SORO Website
We recently reorganized the “Advice for Common Situations” page into subheadings of updates and additions to the WV Surface Owner’s Guide to Oil & Gas. The page also includes a new link to the DEP website to find out what violations have been issued against a particular driller. This will help people know what driller they are dealing with and potentially help them block new permits to drillers with a current violation. We've also added a link to the new state “guidance” to drillers for required steps to avoid the breaking of Marcellus fracing ponds.
We have also added a variety of new resources on water use and hydraulic fracturing to our page on the Marcellus Shale, as well as information on the recent problems reported on Monongahela River.
Finally, we've added new experts and lawyers to our "referral" page, and on the home page we have photos of several of the educational meeting we held around the state this year.
If you have ideas for the website, please let us know.
Thank You for Your Support. Happy Holidays!
Thank you for you generous support. With your help, we have been busy laying the groundwork and building the political capital to push for the changes needed to give us more rights and ensure we receive fair compensation for our losses and inconveniences. We look forward to working with you in 2009 to improve and strengthen West Virginia’s oil & gas laws and gaining the rights and protections we deserve. Happy Holidays!