Interest from drilling companies in Eastern Ohio continues to be red hot with respect to the Marcellus and Utica Shales, as proven by how local county offices are overrun with researchers wanting access to property deed records. One such place is the Belmont County Recorder’s office in Belmont, Ohio. One company, Permian Oil (acting as an agent for XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil) has gone so far as to pay for after hours access.
For many weeks now the office of Belmont County Recorder Mary Catherine Nixon has been literally overrun with oil and gas company representatives searching property deeds with the aim of attracting the landowners to deal with them to acquire drilling rights to the Marcellus and Utica shale underneath their property.
It is not surprising to see anywhere from 25 to 35 of the abstractors squeezing around one another to gain access to the records in the office. Some can’t even get into the office and are occupying tables set up in the second floor hallway to do their work.
There are others who have to sit on chairs outside the office and hold the land documents on their laps to conduct their studies. "Some of the companies have even brought in their own tables and set them up in the open space outside the office to do their work," exclaimed Nixon, who emitted a somewhat weary "I’ve never seen anything like this. I never had any idea we’d ever be this busy."
To accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of the gas company representatives, the courthouse and the recorder’s office in particular, has been forced into overtime hours. "I have entered into a contract with one gas company to allow them to use the office after hours," Nixon said.
On two different days of the week and a half day on Saturday, the recorder’s office stays open to accommodate abstractors from the Permian Oil of Fort Worth, Texas serving as a broker for XTO, a subsidiary of Mobil Exxon.
"We’re open two evenings during the week, from 5 to 7 p.m. and a half day on Saturday just for Permian to use the office. They are allowed to have no more than 15 people come into the building," Nixon explained. To make certain no one else gains entrance during those periods when the courthouse is otherwise closed, Nixon has a list of names of the people who will be allowed to enter.
Nixon received the approval of the Belmont County commissioners and also the prosecuting attorney to contract for the extra service, which is not costing taxpayers a cent. The oil firm is footing the bill for the extra hours of operation, for the salaries of two recorder office employees needed to work during those hours and also for the security personnel that must be provided.*
*The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Nov 20, 2011) – Oil/Gas Companies Pay to Keep Courthouse Open Overtime