WV Senate Bill 244 Introduced for Co-Tenancy & Joint Development

The legislative session for West Virginia is in full swing–a session that lasts for 60 non-contiguous days at the beginning of each year. This year’s session opened on Jan. 11 and will conclude on Apr. 8th. As MDN previously reported, perhaps the biggest energy-related issue for this year’s session will NOT be (as it has in five previous sessions) a bill on forced pooling. Instead, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) is pushing a legislation on co-tenancy and joint development (see WV Won’t Push Forced Pooling, Will Push Joint Dev. & Co-Tenancy). Senate Bill (SB) 244 has now been introduced to cover both co-tenancy and joint development. Co-tenancy is pretty easy to understand: if there are multiple owners for the mineral rights under a property–something that happens fairly regularly in WV–you would only need a simple majority of those owners to approve a drilling lease. Currently, if one person with a teeny tiny share objects, it stops the process. Joint development, on the other hand, had us stumped. But we got some insight into the issue from a couple of sharp MDN readers (see More on WV’s Push for “Joint Development” Instead of Forced Pooling). Currently there are a number of existing old leases, signed before shale drilling began, that prevents drillers from drilling a horizontal well across an individual property boundary line–until a new lease is signed. Joint development says if the driller already owns the leases on all adjoining properties they want to combine into a drilling unit, they can do so without signing a new lease. WVONGA says it corrects a loophole that prevents more drilling from happening. Rights owners say joint development legislation lets drillers have a freebie–instead of signing a new lease (for more money), the driller gets something never envisioned when the original lease was signed. Who’s right? We expect SB 244 to be hotly contested this year, like forced pooling has been in previous years…

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