Forced Pooling – An Issue Coming to the Forefront in Pennsylvania

Now that a severance tax is coming to Pennsylvania, natural gas drillers will likely push for a provision called “forced pooling” in PA which makes it easier to gather gas from properties that are not leased but sit in-between other leased land.

The Marcellus Shale natural gas industry wants to see legislation attached to any severance tax adopted by the state that would force property owners who refuse leases to allow drillers to gather the gas beneath their land, an industry coalition leader said Monday.

Calling it the most economical and conservative land-use approach to drilling for gas, David Spigelmyer, Chesapeake Energy’s regional vice president for government relations, said in a Times-Shamrock newspapers editorial board meeting that “forced pooling” is a key element of any legislation the state’s Marcellus drillers could support and is actively being discussed during budget negotiations in the capital.

Such a statute would help avoid an unnecessary proliferation of wells, Spigelmyer said, but critics say it is a form of eminent domain.*

This is an unresolved and complex issue that’s about to become red hot in PA. There are strong arguments on both sides. MDN believes landowners should have the right to allow drilling on and under their land provided it does not harm nearby populations or the environment. It is the constitutional right for citizens of this country to use their land as they see fit. On the other hand, to force a landowner who does not want to lease their land into a pool with their neighbors who have leased, is also unfair. If it means a proliferation of wells and added expense, so be it. The drilling company will have to bear the cost. Citizens should not have to worry that portions of their property will be used against their will—both on the surface and under it. It’s wrong to stop drilling based on irrational fear (as is being done in New York), and it’s equally wrong for drillers to force landowners to allow drilling under their land.

What do you think about forced pooling? Leave a comment below and let us know.

*Wilkes-Barre Citizen’s Voice (June 29) – Gas industry wants access to unleased property