Advocates for private property owners in West Virginia indicated a couple of bills now pending in the legislature are unfair and could force people into a terrible situation with their mineral rights, particularly their natural gas rights.

The West Virginia Farm Bureau held an informational meeting in Bridgeport Monday which drew more than 40 people to discuss the potential ramifications of Senate Bill 538 and House Bill 2853.

Tom Huber, President off the West Virginia Royalty Owners, said those measures are called “unitization” bills, but he claimed they amount to “forced pooling.” Huber said under the measure once 65 percent of property owners in a lease come to terms with a gas company, the other 35 percent in the unit will be forced into the lease agreement.

“They’re going to be forced in a really bad deal and will have to accept whatever terms the company comes up with and you’re stuck,” he explained.

Huber said the issue is worrisome to those who may not want to enter a lease with a driller or may want to negotiate for a better deal for their gas. Under the two bills pending, Huber didn’t think it would be possible.

“Really, it’s like holding a gun to property owners’ heads when negotiating a lease. That’s not how we should do business. That’s not free market economics and that’s not the American way,” he said.

Huber and the Farm Bureau have been attempting to gain access to the Capitol to help make their case to legislative members, but due to the Covid restrictions, it’s a difficult proposition. He feared the obstacles could hang a lot of property owners in West Virginia out to dry.

“I’m hoping we’ll get the Legislators to see this bill is not fair and they need to make serious changes to it to make it fair,” Huber explained.

“An issue like this is dangerous because it can fly through without the public being aware and even the Legislature being aware of how terrible a bill it is,”