Forced Pooling for Marcellus Shale Drilling May be Coming to West Virginia Landowners

The West Virginia legislature is actively debating new legislation that regulates drilling in the Marcellus Shale. One of the provisions in the proposed legislation being hotly debated is the issue of forced pooling:

Forced pooling – which is now illegal for horizontal drilling – would allow natural gas drillers to use land they have not leased to form a well pad. For example, if all of your neighbors have signed leases with a particular drilling company but you refuse, you may be forced to allow your land to be used by gas drillers for the development of your neighbors’ gas by placing your land into a 640-acre drilling unit.

Local mineral owners have signed gas leases for amounts at least at high as $4,000 per acre and as much as 19 percent of royalties. If a mineral owner is pooled, he or she should be paid royalties comparable to their neighbors but will not receive lease money.*

The way the proposed legislation is written, if a drilling company has 75 percent of a 640-acre drilling unit leased, they would be able to force pool the other 25 percent. Opponents of the legislation believe the ratio should be more like 95/5 percent leased to force pooled.

What do you think about this issue? Is it fair to force some landowners or mineral rights owners to join in with their neighbors? Leave a comment below.

*The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register (Feb 15) – Forced Pooling Debated