WV Legislature Panel on NatGas Dev Meets Tuesday, Forced Pooling?

The West Virginia Legislature has appointed a new Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development, composed of Senators and Delegates, to put their collective heads together to see how they can encourage more oil and gas development in the Mountain State. The committee will meet tomorrow for the first time. The effort is being supported by the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA). In general, it certainly seems like a good idea–WV needs more drilling. However, WVONGA plans to use the committee as a platform to push its “modernized mineral efficiency laws”–i.e. forced pooling lite. As we reported last week, WVONGA is making an all-out push for new forced pooling laws in 2018 (see WVONGA Makes Plans to Push Forced Pooling Lite in 2018). There are two components to WVONG’s agenda: (1) Co-tenancy. The concept of co-tenancy means if a majority of mineral rights owners of a property (75%) want to lease the property for drilling, they can–even if a small 25% minority doesn’t want to lease. This helps overcome an urgent problem in WV where sometimes not all mineral rights owners can be found–or where someone with a sliver of the rights wants to blackmail (our word) the other rights owners for a larger share of the profits. (2) Joint development. This is the one we have a problem with. Currently there are a number of existing old leases, signed before shale drilling began, that prevents drillers from drilling a horizontal well across an individual property boundary line–until a new lease is signed. Joint development says if the driller already owns the leases on all adjoining properties that they want to combine into a drilling unit, they can do so without signing a new lease. WVONGA says it corrects a loophole that prevents more drilling from happening. Rights owners say joint development legislation lets drillers have a freebie–instead of signing a new lease (for more money), the driller gets something never envisioned when the original lease was signed. Although the topics of co-tenancy and joint development are sure to be raised tomorrow, the committee will look at more than just those issues. They will also consider how to attract more downstream (petrochemical) investment in the state…

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