Monday, August 16, 2010

Forced Pooling May Come to PA

State lawmakers are drafting a bill that would essentially give eminent domain rights to natural gas drillers. The practice known as forced pooling is seen in other states and has often been controversial, especially with environmentalists. The pooling legislation being drafted in PA hasn’t been officially introduced yet, but the measure would let energy companies extract gas from under the land of property owners who have refused to sign drilling leases. Sponsor Garth Everett, a Lycoming County Republican, says that wouldn’t happen without a lengthy hearing process, and argues no one would suddenly end up with a rig in their yard. He says, “Nobody would ever be brought into a unit or a pool and have any kind of development take place on their property. It would just allow them to be placed in the unit. And the way I understand it right now, it would also allow for there to be horizontal drilling thousands and thousands of feet beneath their property, which would case no surface disruption.” The forced pooling kicks in only after a set percentage of landowners in a well’s footprint agree to sell their mineral rights. Everett says drillers are already able to extract the gas from uncooperative landowners in other circumstances, and he just wants to give them compensation. Supporters also note that with a clear path, a single drill pad can support several wells fanning out in all directions. However, Representative Greg Vitali of Delaware County who opposes the bill says that argument does not hold water, “I think if you look at the way gas drillers are placing wells now, they don’t seem to be making an effort to minimize the number of wells by combining them on single paths.” Other opponents say the measure infringes on property rights, and is too invasive. House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chair Bud George has called it an “ugly provision.”

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