WV SORO Update Archive

January 21, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2008 ~ Educational Meeting on Surface Owners' Rights and Oil & Gas Leasing

On Wednesday, January 28, 2009, the Marshall County Farm Bureau is hosting an educational meeting on Surface Owners' Rights and Oil & Gas Leasing at 7:00PM at John Marshall High School, Moundsville.  The featured speaker will be Dave McMahon, a public interest lawyer, founder of WV SORO and author of the WV Surface Owners' Guide to Oil & Gas.  The presentation will focus primarily on surface owner rights, with a small portion devoted to leasing. A question and answer session will follow the presentation. For more information contact Joan Harman with the WV Farm Bureau at joanh@wvfarm.org or (304) 472-2080 ext. 306

Interim Update: Study Committee Hears from Landowners, Industry
During the recent legislative interim meetings in Charleston, we had the opportunity to make the case for the Surface Owners' Bill of Rights. The committee studying the bill set aside 30 minutes to hear from landowners about the problems they have experienced in their dealings with drillers. The industry also had 30 minutes. We would like to extend a special thanks to WV SORO members Jim Farrell, Nancy Powers, Chris Opitz, Judy Good, John Snyder and Bart Garrett for sharing their stories with the committee and to all of the WV SORO members who made the trek to Charleston to show their support. (Click here to see a photo from the meeting.) 

It was important for legislators to hear first hand accounts of the needless destruction of timber, lost home sites, mindless road building and ruined pastures caused by drillers and see that the problems caused by the drillers are affecting real people. (Audio of the meetingrecorded by a WV SORO member is available here.) We received positive feedback from the committee members we spoke with the following day and believe being able to put a face on the issue and see a room packed with concerned citizens was a huge boost for our efforts to get the rights we deserve. We also appreciate those of you who took the time to contact your legislators prior to the committee meeting.  We know legislators are hearing from constituents and your calls and e-mails are making a difference. 

Unfortunately, there were not enough committee members present to take action on either of the two bills (our proposed bill and a "committee " bill modeled after legislation passed recently in New Mexico) explained by committee staff earlier in the meeting.  This means we need to keep the pressure on committee members to support OUR Surface Owners' Bill of Rights when they meet in February.

If your legislator(s) serves on the study committee and you haven't contacted them, please do so. A few personal contacts from constituents can make the difference in whether or not our bill is recommended by the committee. (A list of committee members along with their home county and phone number can be found here.) We'll have more details on the January interim meetings in our next newsletter, which should be in mailboxes and on the website early next week. For those interested in attending the February interim meeting, we'll pass along the details as soon as they become available.   

Organize a Constituent Meeting in Your Area
In early January, our Harrison County WV SORO group hosted a constituent meeting with area legislators 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. Nearly 30 landowners attended, along with Delegates Ron Fragale and Richard Iaquinta. The meeting was a success and the delegates appreciated being invited and having the opportunity to hear people's concerns. They understood this was largely an issue of people being treated fairly and indicated that that they hoped it would be taken up early in the legislative session and that steps would be taken to ensure that landowners were treated better. Thanks to everyone who came out on a dreary night to attend the meeting.  Special thanks to Sharon & Joe Marshok and Nancy Powers for planning the meeting. 

We would like to hold similar meetings around the state prior to and during the legislative session.  Helping arrange a meeting between WV SORO members and legislators in your area is something you can do locally to help with your efforts to expand and strengthen surface owners' rights.  If your are willing to help organize a meeting please e-mail Julie (julie@wvsoro.org) or Norm (norm@wvsoro.org) or call us at (304) 346-5891.

West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25311