Brooke County WV Schools Get $661K in Lease Payments

Brooke County Schools in West Virginia are eager to have Chesapeake Energy drill under school-owned property. But Ohio County Schools, also in WV, don’t want Chesapeake drilling near their schools. What’s the difference? One is getting a boatload of money in lease (and eventually royalty) payments. The other isn’t.

Chesapeake Energy’s plan to drill for natural gas under Brooke High School should not create any problems for the more than 1,000 students who attend there each day, County Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said.

The lease agreement Brooke County Schools officials signed with Chesapeake will pay the district $661,500 in lease money, based on a rate of $3,500 per acre on 189 acres. The district also will receive 18 percent of production royalties once Chesapeake gets the gas flowing from the Marcellus Shale underlying the high school.

As Ohio County Schools officials continue to object to Chesapeake’s plans of drilling a well near Wheeling Park High School, Brooke officials seem eager to proceed with their drilling project. While Brooke stands to collect $661,500 up front and additional subsequent funding for drilling there, Ohio County officials will not gain any money for the drilling near Wheeling Park because those mineral rights are owned by the Park System Trust Fund.

As for the $661,500 in lease money – and subsequent 18 percent of production royalties once Chesapeake begins pumping gas from the beneath the high school – Kidder-Wilkerson said there is not yet a definitive plan for how to spend the money.

"We could put it into a special projects fund; we could use some of it to help get matching grants," she said. "We will not be using it for day-to-day operations."*

Chesapeake is not drilling any holes on the surface of Brooke High School (nor on the surface of Wheeling Park High). But they will drill horizontally under Brooke High, and presumably under Wheeling Park High, from adjacent land.

*Wheeling (WV) The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (May 27, 2012) – Chesapeake To Drill Under Brooke School