Rebecca Bench, a landowner in Belmont County, Ohio is representing herself in a lawsuit she has brought against Hess. The lawsuit alleges that Mason Dixon Energy, whom she signed a lease with (that lease was eventually purchased by Hess) had no legal standing to conduct business in Ohio at the time they convinced Rebecca and her husband Kevin Bench to sign a lease in 2008 for $100 per acre. By comparison, recent lease agreements for Utica Shale leases in the county have gone as high as $5,200 per acre.
Bench also claims that Hess, who now holds this lease, has "acted in bad faith" by refusing to renegotiate the terms – and swiftly moving forward with plans to drill on the acreage.
She believes roughly 300 fellow property owners throughout the county are in similar situations.
Mason Dixon’s website notes that it is a "Delaware Limited Liability Company with principle offices located in Bridgeport, W.Va. and Pittsburgh, Pa." Belmont County Recorder’s Office files show that in April 2009, Mason Dixon assigned many of these leases, including Bench’s, to Marquette.
On Sept. 8, 2011, Hess issued a statement announcing that it had "acquired Marquette Exploration and other leases in Ohio’s Utica Shale, boosting its acreage position by 85,000 net acres at a cost of approximately $750 million."
Bench said she eventually discovered Mason Dixon never had a license to operate a business in Ohio.
She states in her complaint that those who operate this way are committing a "misdemeanor of the fourth degree."*
*The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Mar 8, 2012) – Judge Sargus Recuses Self From Gas Lawsuit