WV SORO Update Archive

March 20, 2009

WV SORO Day Recap

WV SORO Day was on Tuesday (St. Patrick’s Day).  Concerned landowners from around the state turned out and everyone got a chance to meet or leave notes with their Delegate(s) and Senators.  Our group also spent time in the afternoon, trying to meet with the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate.  In both cases, they were too busy to meet with us, but the President’s Chief of Staff spent about 20 minutes listening to our stories and concerns.  We also left notes for both leaders urging them to do everything they can to ensure that the Surface Owners’ Bill of Rights (HB 3023 & SB 374) is taken up. 

Shortly after leaving the Senate President’s office, we ran into Senator Mike Green (D-Raleigh), who chairs the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining (EIM) Committee, where the Surface Owners’ Bill of Rights has been assigned.  He listened to us and said he was interested in getting it on the agenda.  We also tracked down Delegate Larry Barker (D-Boone) who chairs the House Energy, Industry & Labor (EIL) Committee.  He has been very sympathetic to our cause, but apparently has been instructed by House leadership to not take up the bill. 

WV SORO Day was capped off with a press conference covered by three local TV stations and Bristol Broadcasting.  Representatives from the WV Council of Churches, the WV Farm Bureau and the WV Environmental Council were on hand to show their support. WV SORO members Jim Farrell (Upshur County) and Rich Niehaus (Marshall County) also spoke in support of the Surface Owners’ Bill of Rights and did one-on-one interviews with the media afterward.  Thanks Rich & Jim for sharing your stories. 

We extend a big thanks to all who attended. Our efforts to “balance the scales” for surface owners were greatly enhanced by your presence.

Action Needed On Surface Owners' Bill of Rights (HB 3023 & SB 374)

Although House Speaker Rick Thompson (D-Wayne) set a deadline of this week for bills to be out of minor committees, the official deadline for bills to be out of committee in the house of origin is March 29.  This means if there is the political will the Surface Owners’ Bill of Rights (HB 3023) could still be taken up by the House Energy, Industry & Labor/Small Business & Economic Development and Judiciary Committees

Please contact the following House leaders and urge them to give the bill a fair hearing:

House Speaker Rick Thompson, (304) 340-3210, speaker.thompson@verizon.net
House EIL Chairman Larry Barker, (304) 340-3149, barker100@verizon.net
House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster, (304) 340-3252, cwebste1@mail.wvnet.edu

We thought our chances of passage in House looked more promising, however given the difficulty we’ve had getting the bill taken up we are refocusing our efforts.
Contact members of the Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Committee. Ask them to support SB 374 and to encourage Senator Green to put it on the committee’s agenda. 

Mike Green (D - Raleigh), Chair - (304) 357-7831, mike.green@wvsenate.gov
Douglas Facemire (D - Braxton), Vice-Chair -  (304) 357-7845, douglas.facemire@wvsenate.gov
John Pat Fanning (D - McDowell) - (304) 357-7867, john.fanning@wvsenate.gov
Walt Helmick (D - Pocahontas) - (304) 357-7980, walt.helmick@wvsenate.gov
Evan H. Jenkins (D - Cabell) - (304) 357-7956, evan.jenkins@wvsenate.gov
Jeffrey V. Kessler (D - Marshall) - (304) 357-7880, jeff.kessler@wvsenate.gov
Joseph M. Minard (D - Harrison) - (304) 357-7904, joe.minard@wvsenate.gov
Ron Stollings (D - Boone) - (304) 357-7939, ron.stollings@verizon.net
Bob Williams (D - Taylor) - (304) 357-7995, bob.williams@wvsenate.gov
Jack Yost (D - Brooke) - (304) 357-7984, jack.yost@wvsenate.gov
Frank Deem (R - Wood) - (304) 357-7970, fdeem@mail.wvnet.edu
Jesse O. Guills (R - Greenbrier) - (304) 357-7959, jesse.guills@wvsenate.gov
Dave Sypolt (R - Preston) - (304) 357-7914, davesypolt@wvsenate.com

Well Definition Bill Threatens Basis for WV SORO Well Spacing Appeal

A bad bill to modify the definitions of "shallow" and "deep" wells has been introduced in both the House (HB 2982) and the Senate (SB 474). The bill would eliminate the basis for WV SORO's appeal on well spacing for wells drilled to the Marcellus Shale formation and there would be no limit on how close together the wells could be placed unless there is coal under the same land and the coal owner objects. If Marcellus wells are declared statutory “shallow wells,” then where there is no coal owner, the “rule of capture” will apply, and everyone loses — investors, mineral owners and surface owners. Unnecessary wells will get drilled and less total gas will be produced.  More wells means surface owners will have to contend with more well sites and access roads on their land, and more inherent risk to groundwater as the wells are drilled.  HB 2982 & SB 474 are bad for almost everyone and we are hoping they will not be taken up. Unfortunately, the proposal has the support of industry and the Division of Environmental Protection. 

Please contact the following committee chairs and tell to oppose  HB 2982 & SB 474:

House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster, (304) 340-3252, cwebste1@mail.wvnet.edu
Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Chairman Mike Green, (304) 357-7831, mike.green@wvsenate.gov
Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffery Kessler, (304) 357-7880, jeff.kessler@wvsenate.gov

Tell them the fairer thing to do would be to requiring forced well spacing and royalty sharing (or “pooling and unitization”) for all wells.  This would be better for almost everyone involved, for the mineral owners, the surface owners, the investors, the environment, and, in the long term, for operators as a class because it is a more economically efficient way of producing resources that are not confined to boundaries of the individual driller’s or mineral owner’s property (or rights).

Click here for more information on the Marcellus formation and our well spacing appeal.
Click here for more information on well spacing and royalty sharing ('"pooling and unitization”) - what it is, and why it should apply, instead of  the rule of capture, to the drilling of all oil and gas wells in West Virginia.

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