(04/06/2017)
4/5/2017 By Bob Weaver - Thorn Roberts, a spokesperson for WV royalty holders and opponent of natural gas forced pooling, said the current defeated bill in the legislature is an example of the role of financial institutions with unconstitutional powers, amounting to powers of taxation, involved with the major operating companies, especially those with downstream utility ties.

"What is really involved here is forced lease terms, including arbitration and forced mediation law which effectively bars suits by the average person and reduces payments such as royalties to simply gratuities," said Roberts.

"This isn't just an oil and gas or farmers' question - democracy is going down the drain at this point. There is a wider battle with other grassroots movements to be fought over this in our lifetimes," he said.

In WV, and many other states, Republican right groups have pushed legislation regarding what they have called "hellhole" laws that have allowed ordinary citizens to sue corporations.

They have frequently labeled WV a "judicial hellhole" for many years, to convince legislators that changes should be made to favor corporations.

An example is the Tawney vs. Chesapeake royalty holders suit in Roane County, in which the court ruled in favor of ordinary holders to the tune of several million dollars, the company found guilty of skimming huge sums.

In WV, frequent new legislation has been introduced in like Republican controlled states to disallow citizens to directly sue corporations, requiring them to enter arbitration with the companies setting settlement costs.

Stick around, it will all come back for another round.

4/4/2017 - The natural gas industry's controversial bill to help it force drilling on unwilling land or mineral owners was declared dead in the legislature session Tuesday night, according to Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette.

"I would say it's dead for this session," said House Energy Chairman Bill Anderson, R-Wood. "It didn't have a pathway forward."

Earlier, Anderson had given supporters of Senate Bill 576 hope, as the battle royale continued for several days.

The forced pooling bill was the top priority this session for the state's natural gas industry, contains a "co-tenancy" provision that allows drilling over the objections of a co-owner of mineral rights, unless that co-owner controls at least 25 percent of the mineral rights.

In a separate section for what proponents call "joint development," or lease integration, the bill allows companies to force adjacent gas reserves into pools modern horizontal drilling through older leases, written when that technology wasn't used, unless those older leases somehow specifically prohibited the practice.

Industry technology has fueled an economic boom in the Marcellus Shale gas fields of West Virginia's northern counties, but it has also has created problems for surface owners who worry about damage to their homeplaces and peaceful rural lifestyle.

The drilling boom also has generated conflicts between gas companies and mineral owners over how the wealth created is being divided.

Opponents said the bill unfairly takes the mineral property of West Virginians without ensuring much-needed protection for surface landowners and modernizing — increasing — the royalty payments contained in decades-old leases to match the economics of the modern industry.

Two years ago, a bill with similar goals — it was referred to then as the "forced pooling" bill, a name supporters are trying to avoid this session — died on the last night of the session in a rare tie vote, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans opposing it as a violation of private property rights.

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