“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” — Michael CorleoneTo many Americans, that’s just one of the more memorable lines from Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling, 1972 epic, the Godfather, but to a growing number of homeowners in the United States, that thinly veiled threat is all too real.
According to a story published this morning by ProPublica.org, natural gas drillers are using a legislative provision known as “forced pooling” to drill for natural gas on land they don’t own, whether the owners want them to or not.
From the ProPublica piece:
Forced pooling compels holdout landowners to join gas-leasing agreements with their neighbors. The specific provisions of the laws vary from state to state, but drillers are generally allowed to extract minerals from a large area or “pool”–in most states a minimum of 640 acres–if leases have been negotiated for a certain percentage of that land. The company can then harvest gas from the entire area. In most cases, drillers aren’t allowed to build surface wells on unleased land, so they use horizontal wells or other means to collect the minerals beneath those parcels.The “forced pooling” issue has come up in Legislatures across the country as the shale-gas frenzy drives drillers to get the gas out of the ground as quickly as possible, and to date, 38 states have some sort of “forced pooling” law on the books, according to the ProPublica story.
Most recently, the matter has come up for debate in West Virginia, Oklahoma, New York and Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has said that he considers forced pooling to be an eminent domain seizure of private property and, as such, is against it.
“It’s private eminent domain. I don’t think that’s right,” Corbett said in his keynote speech at the recent 4th annual Appalachian Basin Oil and Gas seminar, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “I was made aware that it’s on the industry’s wish list, but I don’t agree. If I see a bill that contains forced pooling, I won’t sign it.”
Nevertheless, natural gas drillers continue to push for forced pooling provisions across the country.
Check out this application for a “forced pooling” action in Arkansas to get a sense of how relentless the drilling companies can be when they want something.
So, the bottom line, then, it would seem is this: natural gas drillers can essentially take your land from you for their use in pursuing a fat payday, contaminate your water and keep secret what chemicals they’re injecting deep underground in your backyard in the drilling process.
In short: frack you, we’re the natural gas industry.
Cartoon courtesy of J. David Bell. It was first published by the Marcellus Shale Protest.