Co-Tenancy Front and Center for WV Legislature as Session Nears

At the beginning of each new year the West Virginia legislature meets for a 60-day session. This year the session runs from Jan. 10 to Mar. 10. For the previous maybe 6-7 years, the shale industry has pushed for some sort of forced pooling legislation. Each year those bills, as close they sometimes got, were defeated. This year the industry is staying well away from saying anything about “forced pooling.” Last time around (in 2017) we came close with something MDN calls forced pooling lite–a bill that would have allowed for co-tenancy and joint development. That bill was eventually defeated (see WV Force Pooling Lite Goes Down in Flames – Lawmakers Blame Pot). For the rest of last year WVONGA (the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association) hyped both co-tenancy and joint development. What are they? Co-tenancy says a majority of rights owners can vote to accept a lease for drilling. It corrects a situation in which multiple rights owners are listed for a property–sometimes 200 or more rights owners for a single piece of property! It is often difficult, if not impossible, to track them all down and get them to sign on the dotted line. Joint development (sometimes called “lease consolidation”) is more nuanced. Currently there are a number of existing old leases, signed before shale drilling began, that prevent 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 single 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. It is a form of theft. We’re happy to see WVONGA leave joint development behind. This year WVOGNA and legislators are laser-focused on co-tenancy, which we think is a good thing…

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