Facing the possibility of a deep well drilling boom in Sunny Cal with about 70 permits
being issued, concerns have been raised by local residents regarding their rights as
land and royalty owners.
Certainly the Calhoun Commission has serious concerns about the taxation of deep
wells and how that money could benefit the people of the county. Most of the domain
over taxation of oil and gas has been taken away from the counties and now resides
in Charleston. Counties are mostly collection agencies for the taxes.
There are several legal concerns attached to the rights of royalty owners which
requires investigation, in addition to owners of surface.
A recent publication has been put together by lawyer David McMahon for people who
cannot afford to hire a lawyer. The 115-page "Surface Owner's Guide To Oil and Gas,"
describes what landowners can do when a drilling company is moving to their
"Some drillers may not want surface owners to know all the law and the leverage of
landowners. "Be careful, sometimes they bluff," said McMahon. "The law has
traditionally favored the mineral owner over the landowner."
Landowners can have considerable say on location of roads, protection from
abandoned roads and well sites and fairer compensation for the use of the
The laws and regulations are stacked against county governments, local land and
royalty owners, particularly favoring large corporate producers and holding
companies. Myriad's of complicated formulas, concessions and regulations adopted
by state government and passed down, require critical evaluation. The problems are
much less with local oil and gas producers, who tend to be better neighbors. Local
producers generally pay their fair share of taxes.
Tax breaks and concessions given in the name of economic stability or development
have mostly been unproductive shams, according to several recent West Virginia
If the system was fair to ordinary guys, counties like Calhoun, having pumped
multi-millions of dollars out of the state, would not be worried about infrastructure,
jobs and maintaining essential services. The State of Alaska developed an
equalization system which benefits the people of the state, including not paying any
income taxes. The corporate giants have not gone broke.
McDowell County, one of the most depressed areas I have ever been, has produced
more coal than any place in America. If fairness be evident, it does not show its face
there. More often than not, laws and regulations in West Virginia, have allowed the
rape of natural resources, with citizens unable to fight back.
Low-income people can request McMahon's printed text version of his book by calling
800-642-8279, or a hard copy can be purchased for $10 to WV Legal Services Plan,
992 Quarrier Street E., Suite 550, Charleston WV 25301. It is full of information that
many people in deep well drilling counties might need to know.
Friday, as President of the Calhoun Commission, I will be going to the Economic
Development Summit in Flatwoods, sponsored by several West Virginia groups,
including county governments, state and county educational agencies. Several
members of the Calhoun County Board of Education will also be attending. Some of
the issues may be brought to a roundtable discussion.