EQT CEO Toby Rice Says WV Co-Tenancy Law May Not be Enough

West Virginia’s co-tenancy law was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in March 2018 (see WV Gov. Justice Does 180 – Says He’ll Sign Co-Tenancy Bill). According to speakers at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) 2019 Fall Meeting, the new law is working pretty well (see WVONGA Meeting: New Co-Tenancy Law Working, Still a Few Kinks). However, EQT CEO Toby Rice told WV legislators yesterday that co-tenancy may not go far enough for his company.
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WVONGA Meeting: New Co-Tenancy Law Working, Still a Few Kinks

West Virginia’s new co-tenancy law is working, according to speakers at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) 2019 Fall Meeting held yesterday and today. Several speakers from major WV drillers, including Antero Resources and CNX Resources, sang the praises of the new co-tenancy law. WVONGA executive director Anne Blankenship also sang its praises, but said there’s still a few things to work out before the new law is “fully understood.”
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WV Gov. Justice Does 180 – Says He’ll Sign Co-Tenancy Bill

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has done a complete 180 degree turn around with respect to signing a co-tenancy bill. As we previously reported, the co-tenancy bill was passed first by the House, and then the Senate (see WV Co-Tenancy Bill Passes in Senate – Now Waits for Gov to Sign). However, on the way to final passage, Justice wanted to link co-tenancy with joint development, which would allow drillers who own existing (old) leases on adjoining properties to pool them into a unit without signing new shale leases with the owners. He threatened to veto a co-tenancy bill if there is no joint development bill too (see WV Gov. Justice Kills Co-Tenancy Bill by Linking it to Joint Dev). Justice got a lot of blowback, from everyone, and soon after his shoot-from-lip comments, he backed off his threat to veto. Yesterday Justice said he will sign the co-tenancy bill, that there are a lot of “positive benefits” to the legislation. What a turnaround!…
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WV Co-Tenancy Bill Passes in Senate – Now Waits for Gov to Sign

On Saturday, the full West Virginia Senate voted on House Bill (HB) 4268–the “co-tenancy” bill–passing the measure by a vote of 23-11. This is tremendously good news–for both landowners and drillers. Although WV Gov. Jim Justice had previously threatened to veto the bill because he wanted it tied (like a millstone) to the neck of another bill (joint development), Justice backed off that position after getting a lot of blowback, from virtually everyone (see WV Gov. Justice Gets His Head Straight, Stops Targeting Co-Tenancy). The bill now awaits his signature. Let’s hope Justice keeps his head clear enough to sign it…
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Co-Tenancy Bill Passes WV House, Goes to Senate for Final Vote

MDN has written a number of posts about an effort in West Virginia to correct an ongoing issue called co-tenancy (see our co-tenancy stories here). In some cases rights owners can’t be found to sign leases, resulting in a great deal of acreage being unavailable for drilling that otherwise would be. In WV there are often multiple rights owners listed for a property–sometimes 200 or more rights owners for a single piece of property! It is difficult, if not impossible, to track them all down and get them all to sign on the dotted line. Co-tenancy corrects that situation by allowing 75% of rights owners to agree/sign for everyone. Yesterday we told you that the full House of Delegates was slated to vote on House Bill (HB) 4268, “Co-tenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act” (see WV Co-Tenancy Bill Survives Challenge, Amended, Final Vote Today). Indeed they did vote, and the bill passed–60 voting for, 40 against. Which is good news for everyone–for drillers AND for rights owners. The bill now goes to the WV Senate for consideration. Here’s an update on yesterday’s vote…
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WV Co-Tenancy Bill Survives Challenge, Amended, Final Vote Today

Two days ago we reported that the West Virginia House of Delegates was due to vote on House Bill (HB) 4268, the “Co-tenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act” (see WV Votes on Co-Tenancy Bill Today; Anti Gets Mouthy, “Dragged” Away). In WV there are often multiple rights owners 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 all to sign on the dotted line. Co-tenancy corrects that situation. A vote by the full House didn’t end up happening on Tuesday, as originally predicted. Amendments to the bill were offered. One of the amendments would have changed the ratio of rights owners who must sign on the dotted line to allow leasing from 75% all the way up to 90%–which isn’t feasible. Fortunately that amendment was voted down 57-40. However, another amendment–to reallocate half of the unclaimed royalties to fund health insurance for public employees including teachers–did pass (50-47). In the original bill 100% of unclaimed royalty revenue was to be used to cap orphan wells. Now the orphans only get half the funding. Perhaps most importantly, an amendment to limit co-tenancy to properties with seven or more rights owners passed 90-6. That amendment is intended to keep WV out of family squabbles, where just a few people own the mineral rights. The now fully-amended, fully-discussed bill is ready for a final final House vote, which is scheduled for today. After the House votes, it’s on to the Senate. Below are reports about the amendment process in the House…
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WV Votes on Co-Tenancy Bill Today; Anti Gets Mouthy, “Dragged” Away

Today a co-tenancy bill is due for a vote by the full House of Delegates and from there will get sent on to the WV Senate. Co-tenancy is NOT forced pooling. It is legislation that will give a majority of rights owners in a property the authority to sign a lease on behalf of all the rights owners. In WV there are often multiple rights owners 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 all to sign on the dotted line. Co-tenancy corrects that situation. In the current bill, House Bill (HB) 4268, if 75% of the rights owners agree to lease the property for oil and gas drilling, that’s “good enough.” The bill will open up more Marcellus and Utica acreage to be drilled. As we previously reported, almost everyone is in favor it, including landowner groups (see WV Co-Tenancy Bill Picks Up Support from Landowner Group). Last Friday, the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee held a public hearing to gather more input from the public, and then voted to approve the bill, sending it to the full House for a vote. The public hearing was not without some drama. An anti-fossil fueler who is running for a House seat this fall, Democrat Lissa Lucas, got up to the mic during the public hearing and instead of addressing the merits (or lack thereof) for HB 4268, she proceeded to read the names of House members and contributions to their campaigns from the oil and gas industry. When asked to refrain from her stunt, she didn’t, so two men gently took her by the arms and escorted her out of the hearing. She now (hilariously) claims she was “dragged” out of the hearing. Here’s the latest on co-tenancy in WV–and the nutjobs who oppose it…
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WV Co-Tenancy, Royalty Transparency Bills Make Progress

As predicated, a co-tenancy bill has been introduced in this year’s 60-day session of the West Virginia legislature (see Co-Tenancy Front and Center for WV Legislature as Session Nears). What is co-tenancy? It is legislation that will give a majority of rights owners of a property the authority to sign a lease on behalf of all the rights owners. 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. Co-tenancy corrects that situation, opening up more Marcellus and Utica acreage that can be drilled. Last Thursday a co-tenancy bill was introduced in the House Energy Committee–House Bill (HB) 4268–which should see an initial vote this week. Various groups are lobbying for and against the bill. The WV Surface Owners Rights Organization is pushing for two amendments, without which they won’t support the bill. Although co-tenancy is a major emphasis for Marcellus/Utica drillers, a different bill is a major emphasis for landowners–a bill to provide greater transparency of royalty statements (more information provided on statements). House Bill (HB) 4270 already passed in a vote by the House Energy Committee last week. It still has to pass muster with the House Judiciary Committee, but the bill seems to be off to a fast start. Here’s a rundown on these two important bills, with copies of the bills as introduced, with background on the backroom wheeling and dealing over the co-tenancy bill…
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WV Farm Bureau Urges Legislature to Tread Carefully re Co-Tenancy

In another MDN post today, we do a deep dive into West Virginia House Bill (HB) 4268, the “Co-tenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act” (see WV Co-Tenancy, Royalty Transparency Bills Make Progress). One of the organizations closely watching the progress of that bill is the WV Farm Bureau, which lobbies for the best interests of mineral owners, farmers and rural residents. What does the Farm Bureau think of the bill so far? Last week, on the very day HB 4268 was introduced, Farm Bureau director of Governmental Affairs, Dwayne O’Dell, penned an editorial in which he lends tepid support for the bill, IF there are protections built in for landowners. O’Dell begins his editorial by stating he’s worried that WV legislators are, “allowing oil and gas developers to take private property rights unfettered.” That is, they are literally “giving away the farm.” O’Dell is favor of “providing oil and gas companies with a reasonable platform to succeed.” But not at the expense of his members. Here’s a big, fat caution flag being waved by the WV Farm Bureau with respect to the co-tenancy bill, along with a call for the legislature to revisit the issue of “at the well head” pricing…
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WV Co-Tenancy Bill Picks Up Support from Landowner Group

It’s looking more and more like co-tenancy legislation will pass this year in West Virginia (see Co-Tenancy Front and Center for WV Legislature as Session Nears). What is co-tenancy? It is legislation that will give a majority of rights owners of a property the authority to sign a lease on behalf of all the rights owners. 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. Co-tenancy corrects that situation, opening up more Marcellus and Utica acreage that can be drilled. The main oil and gas associations in WV are pushing hard for it. Very importantly, the West Virginia Royalty Owners Association is giving its guarded blessing to the effort. About the only group still outright opposing it is the West Virginia Surface Owners Organization. They risk not having a seat at the table to influence the final version of the bill by their ongoing opposition. The co-tenancy train has already left the station and is picking up steam. The time is now to weigh in if you want to have a say in the bill that (we predict) WILL get passed–as long as legislators keep it “clean” and don’t lard it up with other stuff, like “joint development”…
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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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IOGA WV Gets it Right on Co-Tenancy & Joint Development

For some time we’ve reported on the effort to pass new legislation in West Virginia on co-tenancy and joint development (see WVONGA Makes Plans to Push Forced Pooling Lite in 2018). These two concepts together somewhat replace what the oil and gas industry once wanted in WV–a forced pooling law. The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) has been the driving force behind the effort to adopt co-tenancy and joint development. MDN has been right up front about our views: co-tenancy is fair and reasonable, joint development is not. WVONGA continues to push for both. However, WVONGA is not the only oil and gas trade association in the Mountain State. WV also has the Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia (or IOGA WV), which broke off from WVONGA in 1959. We were delighted to spot an article that reports IOGA WV is pushing for co-tenancy, but NOT for joint development. IOGA of WV recognizes joint development for what it is–an attempt to allow drillers to use old leases for shale drilling without having to negotiate new terms (i.e. pay more to rights owners). Kudos to IOGA WV for getting it right. What, precisely, is co-tenancy and joint development? Glad you asked…
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Enervest Pushes for Co-Tenancy in West Virginia

In August MDN told you the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) plans to push, once again, for what MDN calls forced pooling lite in the next session of the legislature scheduled for early 2018 (see WVONGA Makes Plans to Push Forced Pooling Lite in 2018). Forced pooling legislation in West Virginia has been put forward five times in the past seven years–and each time it has failed to win enough votes in the WV legislature. This year, WVONGA changed tactics and renamed forced pooling as co-tenancy and joint development (see WV Won’t Push Forced Pooling, Will Push Joint Dev. & Co-Tenancy). The West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization refers to co-tenancy as “majority rules” and joint development as “invisible ink” (see Another Look at WV’s Co-tenancy & Joint Development Proposals). EnerVest, a shale (and conventional) driller with considerable acreage in West Virginia recently contributed a editorial to the Charleston Gazette-Mail which unsurprisingly supports WVONGA’s push–at least for co-tenancy. The article doesn’t mention joint development, but since the two are tied together in a single bill, we assume they also want to see joint development. Below is (once again) a brief explanation of the two concepts, along with EnerVest’s editorial/reasons for why the Mountain State needs them…
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