PA Gov. Corbett Says “No” to Concept of Forced Pooling of Marcellus Shale Leases

Forced pooling happens when most landowners in an area have signed leases and want to allow drilling, but one or two have  not. If a landowner has not signed a lease but owns land situated between other land already leased, that landowner could be “forced” to allow drilling. The unwilling landowner would not be forced to allow a drill pad, but a driller on a neighboring piece of property would be allowed to drill underneath the landowner with a “minority interest.” Forced pooling is not currently allowed in Pennsylvania, and according to new Gov. Tom Corbett, it won’t be as long as he’s governor.

The pooling of gas drilling rights, which is at or near the top of the industry’s wish list, amounts to the use of eminent domain for private interests, the governor said.

The comments on forced pooling were made at the K&L Gates fourth annual Appalachian Basin Oil and Gas Seminar in Green Tree today, an event that drew about 400 people, many from industry and law firms.

"Private eminent domain, I don’t think that’s right," Mr. Corbett said. "I was made aware that it’s on the industry’s wish list, but I don’t agree. If I see a bill that contains forced pooling, I won’t sign it."*

MDN agrees. If landowners want to allow drilling on and under their land, they should be allowed to do so. But if they don’t want it, drilling companies need to respect their wishes and drill somewhere else. Does that penalize neighboring landowners who do want drilling to happen? Perhaps. But that’s the tradeoff in a free society. You don’t get to tell me how I use my land as long as my uses of it don’t threaten or jeopardize public health. It works both ways—I have the right to allow drilling, but I also have the right to refuse it.

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Apr 26, 2011) – Corbett opposes forced pooling of gas rights