CADIZ, Ohio – The Harrison Canton recorder’s appointment actuality acclimated to be a quiet atom to analysis deeds, leases and added acreage abstracts that date to 1813. Now, dozens of bodies clog the appointment every day and set up affected in the courthouse hallways to adjust through abstracts that appearance who owns acreage in the eastern Ohio county. These men and women assignment for aggressive activity companies that are antagonism to defended conduct rights to the oil and gas in Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus shale.
This adventure was originally appear on Monday, Sept. 26
CADIZ, Ohio – The Harrison Canton recorder’s appointment actuality acclimated to be a quiet atom to analysis deeds, leases and added acreage abstracts that date to 1813.
Now, dozens of bodies clog the appointment every day and set up affected in the courthouse hallways to adjust through abstracts that appearance who owns acreage in the eastern Ohio county.
These men and women assignment for aggressive activity companies that are antagonism to defended conduct rights to the oil and gas in Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus shale.
“I’m told that, alike aback in the atramentous canicule of the 1950s and 1960s, it was never as alive as this,” said Tracy Boyer, canton recorder aback 1993.
While accompaniment regulators, industry admiral and ecology advocates agitation the allowances and pitfalls of accumbent shale-gas conduct and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the assignment to actualize Ohio’s shale-gas bang is activity on in canton offices beyond the state.
And it’s accident on doorsteps and at kitchen tables in rural houses, breadth landowners are absorbing charter offers from gas-company representatives.
Rumors of affluent payouts creating brief millionaires are rampant. Some of them are alike true.
And while abounding landowners are belief their options, others are acquirements that they don’t accept any. Decades-old leases may still administer today, alike if the accepted acreage owners didn’t assurance them.
Hundreds of landowners in Holmes, Wayne and Ashland counties, for example, apparent that Columbia Gas had subleased added than 40,200 acreage of mineral rights to two conduct companies in January 2009.
“We don’t apperceive the bodies who alive it. It aloof came with the property,” Ann Obrecht, a Wayne Canton abettor and one of those landowners, said of one lease.
Some leases can allurement landowners into deals that leave them little or no recourse if conduct amercement their property, drains or taints their water, boodle their acreage fields or contaminates the air.
Meetings are actuality captivated beyond the accompaniment to advise farmers and added acreage owners about these abeyant problems. “When you get a accepted boilerplate lease, you charge to alpha allurement some questions,” said Dale Arnold, energy-policy administrator for the Ohio Acreage Agency Federation, during a Sept. 7 landowners affair in Mansfield.
“These leases are long-term, multigenerations,” Arnold said. “Your sons and your grandchildren charge to altercate what’s activity on.”
A mineral-rights charter is the affection of a accurately bounden affiliation amid landowners and oil and gas companies.
Property owners about are offered a benefit acquittal that promises a assertive bulk of money per acre and royalties that pay a allotment of the bulk of oil or gas that comes out of the ground.
Leases about accord companies a four- to five-year borderline to drill. If a able-bodied is drilled, the charter stays in aftereffect for as continued as that able-bodied produces accustomed gas or oil.
The bulk of money a backer is offered in benefit payments isn’t recorded in the leases. Afore the aboriginal commercially acknowledged shale-gas able-bodied was accomplished in Washington County, Pa., in 2005, the activity bulk was as abundant as $100 an acre.
Now, some landowners are accepting bonuses that are 20 times that amount.
Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Activity has about 600 workers poring over acreage annal in canton offices beyond Ohio, said Lester Zitkus, the company’s carnality admiral of land.
He said the annal advice analyze accoutrements that can be busy and appearance the companies whether afresh alive leases can be contested or invalidated by old leases, some of which date aback added than a century.
In July, Chesapeake admiral estimated that the aggregation has spent amid $1.5 billion and $2 billion to admission the rights to 1.25 actor acreage in Ohio. The aggregation estimated the bulk of the gas, butane, propane and oil covered by those leases at $15 billion to $20 billion.
New York-based Hess Corp. reportedly paid added than $1.3 billion this ages to accretion conduct rights to added than 180,000 acreage in eastern Ohio.
“We are architecture a cardinal acreage position in the Ohio Utica shale,” CEO John Hess said in a statement. “We’ve got to drill, and it’s early, but we anticipate it offers a lot of abeyant for growth.”
The antagonism for shale has reportedly apprenticed benefit payments to new levels. Rumors of $2,000-an-acre payments accept accustomed way to rumors of $3,000-an-acre payments and more.
“In Carroll County, I’ve heard the landowners accumulation there got $3,300 an acre,” said Steve Rhodes, who owns a acreage a Shelby.
Rhodes is secretary of a accumulation of landowners in arctic Richland Canton who formed an accord to assurance the best leasing deal.
“We’ve got 117 associates and 17,500 acreage involved,” he said.
Jefferson Canton apostle and agriculturalist Larry Piergallini said he helped anatomy a accumulation of about 200 landowners who admiring bids from four activity companies that capital to charter their aggregate 20,000 acres.
He said the acceptable bid included a benefit acquittal of $3,700 an acre. That would beggarly the 604-acre Piergallini ancestors acreage was promised a payout of $2,234,800.
Texas-based Marquette Exploration paid that bulk and an added $70 actor to the added landowners. The aggregation and its leases were awash to Hess for $750 million.
Other landowners are award that old but alive leases can beggarly that companies can assignment wells on their acreage or advertise the rights to added activity companies.
The companies are not appropriate to accommodate new deals, action benefit payments or admission royalties.
When landowners in Ashland, Coshocton, Holmes, Knox, Richland and Wayne counties affiliated calm to anatomy the Mohican Basin Landowners Association, abounding begin that absolute leases captivated by Columbia Gas had been subleased to Houston-based EnerVest and to Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp.
Columbia Gas doesn’t accomplish gas wells in the area. It leases the acreage for gas storage. In these areas, accustomed gas is pumped from pipelines into old gas wells and kept underground until it’s bare to calefaction homes. The appoint acceding gives EnerVest and Anschutz aggregate rights to assignment through the accumulator reservoirs for gas and oil.
On July, 1, 2010, Anschutz awash its allotment of the 40,200 acreage to Chesapeake Energy, according to annal in the Wayne Canton recorder’s office.
The auction bulk and the breach of the acreage were not appear in the records.
EnerVest agent Ron Whitmire said his aggregation still controls about 13,000 acres. He and Zitkus said their companies accept no actual affairs to assignment in that area.
Still, Obrecht and added Mohican landowners say they are anxious that the leases accord the companies too abundant abandon to adjudge back and breadth to set up accumbent conduct rigs on their properties.
“I can’t acquisition annihilation (in the lease) that says how aing they can appear to my residence,” said Marilyn Byers, who owns a 72-acre beasts acreage aloof arctic of Loudonville.
“There is annihilation to assure our bubbler baptize because we all accept wells.”
Obrecht additionally is afraid about her family’s 300-acre dairy acreage in Wayne County. She said her ancestors had no abstraction the charter could be acclimated for annihilation but gas accumulator back they bought the acreage in 1974.
“It’s not aloof the conduct unit, but the anchorage they put in to get to them,” Obrecht said. “Is it a acceptable company? Do we apperceive them?”
In a statement, Columbia Gas Transmission admiral said subleasing mineral rights is annihilation new and that landowners are still advantaged to ability payments for extracted gas.
Whitmire said EnerVest is focused on developing wells in eastern Ohio and doesn’t apperceive back it ability about-face its absorption west against Wayne and Holmes counties.
Zitkus said some of the leases ability not acquiesce for the accumbent conduct that Chesapeake would charge to do. As a result, the aggregation ability accept to accommodate new agreement with the landowners.
J. Richard Emens, a Columbus-based oil and gas apostle assassin by the Mohican accumulation to investigate the gas-storage matter, said he is acquisitive to assignment out a accord for his clients.
“They don’t accept this (lease) is fair,” Emens said. “Let’s aloof say the landowners accumulation is attractive advanced to accepting more-meaningful discussions.”
Emens and added oil and gas experts said landowners charge to booty their time afore signing leases.
He said he has articular a cardinal of accoutrement that accumulate leases from expiring, alike if there is no conduct aural bristles years.
Other provisions, he said, could accord conduct companies chargeless admission to baptize on the acreage or acquiesce them to body pipelines and added accessories on acreage alike if they don’t assignment a well.
“Just because they are told this is a accepted charter and they should assurance it as is, that should not actuate landowners to accord up their agreement rights,” Emens said.
Arnold, of the acreage bureau, said landowners additionally should accomplish abiding that leases assure them from any abuse and that they should accept their clay and baptize activated afore conduct occurs.
That way, he said, farmers will be bigger able to appearance that conduct acquired any pollution.
Arnold additionally said farmers should almanac their crop assembly per acre anniversary year.
And landowners should appeal that leases accommodate measures that would force conduct companies to apple-pie up any pollution, fix problems and atone them for damages.
“That charter is below your ascendancy up until you assurance it,” Arnold said.
Despite the allurement of bonuses and royalties, some Ohio landowners ability never appetite to assurance a conduct lease.
Then again, it ability not matter.
A statute accepted as the mandatory-pooling law could force some holdouts to accessible up their land.
Before a accumbent able-bodied can be accomplished in Ohio, activity companies charge admission at atomic 144 acreage of mineral rights. That generally agency accepting leases from abounding landowners.
Mike McCormac, oil and gas allowing administrator for the Ohio Department of Accustomed Resources, said the accompaniment about requires activity companies to admission at atomic 90 percent of the mineral rights they intend to tap. Below the mandatory-pooling law, those who own the actual 10 percent could be affected to participate.
McCormac said activity companies could not abode conduct rigs, wells, roads, pipelines or added accessories on that 10 percent.
They could, however, assignment angular below the land.
Zitkus said Chesapeake is committed to ambidextrous aboveboard and adequately with landowners.
“We plan to be actuality a continued time. We’re not out to bodies or cast these leases and accord them to addition else,” he said. “We do acerb apostle a cellophane leasing process.”
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