Ohio Landowners Sue to Break Utica Lease Contract

A group of landowners in Columbiana County, Ohio have filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve lease agreements they say were improperly transferred from Anschutz Exploration to Chesapeake.

A group of 33 landowners in five local townships filed a lawsuit regarding their oil and gas lease rights in Columbiana County Common Pleas on Monday.

The lawsuit filed by the Canton law firm of Tzangas Plakas Mannos and Raies Ltd., involves about 3,000 acres in Wayne, Butler, West, Hanover and Salem townships. It names Chesapeake Exploration and its subsidiary, CHK Utica, as well as two land agents and three notary publics as defendants in the lawsuit.

Among several complaints, the people contend they have a right to receive the fair market value for their land and have it put to productive use in a reasonable timeframe.

The lawsuit claims Anschutz Exploration Corp. was extremely active in the area between 2008 and 2010, signing many lease agreements, which pre-dated the current knowledge by most local property owners of the new Utica Shale fracking and drilling procedures opening up additional gas. Because of this, the lawsuit contends many of the landowners were signed to leases and received less than 1 percent of the fair market value compared to current signing bonuses being paid in Columbiana County.

Several years after Anschutz Exploration signed the leases, Chesapeake sought to obtain the leases. The lawsuit alleges the lease transfers were improper, without proper notarization and ineligible to be recorded in Columbiana County, although they were.*

*Lisbon (OH) Morning Journal News (Feb 29, 2012) – 33 want out