Forced Pooling Resurfaces in the WV Legislature

by Duane Nichols on December 7, 2015

Delegate Ireland on House Floor

Delegate Woody Ireland (R – Ritchie County) Strongly Pushing Forced Pooling

From an Article by Liz McCormick, WV Public Broadcasting, November 17, 2015

Two bills that both died on the final night of the 2015 legislative session, resurfaced (Monday) during interim meetings – forced pooling and public charter schools. Both ideas erupted in debate in 2015, but (Monday’s) discussions were calm and reflective – but not without some concerns.

The separate discussions (Monday) on forced pooling and charter schools were mostly on how to make these controversial pieces of legislation work for lawmakers and interested parties on both sides of the issues.

First, forced pooling -

Delegate Woody Ireland chairs the House Energy Committee and sponsored the forced pooling legislation during the 2015 session. He told his fellow lawmakers (Monday) they must do something about pooling, even if they don’t all agree.

Forced pooling works like this – When companies prepare to drill a well, they create a giant rectangle of land parcels and then negotiate with the mineral owners within that rectangle for their gas rights.

The 2015 bill would have allowed companies to force owners to sell their minerals if they could get 80 percent of the owners in their parcel to agree to the drilling. However, the 20 percent forced to sell would still get paid for their proportion of gas drilled.

Democrats and some tea party Republicans were strongly against the bill, even showing their discontent through demonstrations on the floor. On the final night, the bill died on a tie vote in the House.

Now, Delegate Ireland has proposed a new pooling bill.

“With the passage of this bill, it would create a lot of land owner protections that currently aren’t available,” explained Seth Gaskins, counsel to the committees on Energy, “and the new title for the bill is the Horizontal Well Unitization of Landowner Protection Act. We wanted to make sure that this bill is known as a protection bill as well as a pooling bill.”

One aspect of this new bill would clarify the royalty rights of mineral owners. It would protect owners from deductions if they are included in a pool without their consent.

But there’s more – Ireland is also proposing what he calls a companion bill to compliment the Horizontal Well Unitization of Landowner Protection Act.

“This bill attempts to create some transparency,” Gaskins said, “in the royalty payment process as well as institute or establish rather, reporting more frequent report of production…reporting of production data to the office of oil and gas.”

While there was little debate during the meeting, a couple lawmakers did express some concern over the two new draft bills, but Ireland says the legislature has to make pooling a priority.

“I think what we have currently is an opportunity to really improve on personal property rights,” Ireland said, “If you look at the statutes that includes forced pooling from the deep strata, and you look at what’s going on in the industry with a movement towards the Utica shale, which is a deep strata, so if we don’t do something, we basically have forced pooling already.”

The second controversial piece of legislation taken up during November interims (Monday) – public charter schools. The 2015 bill on charter schools also died on the final night but not quite as loudly as forced pooling. See the original article here for that discussion.

Note:  Forced pooling is permitted already for so-called deep wells in WV, e.g. Utica shale wells —which are significantly more expensive.  But, giving forced pooling rights to the drilling & fracking companies is similar to giving eminent domain rights to pipeline companies.  Forced pooling takes rights from mineral owners and eminent domain takes rights from surface land owners.  DGN

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rick Humphreys December 7, 2015 at 10:47 am

Letter to the Editor, Morgantown Dominion Post,
Sunday, December 6, 2015

Take your pick: Greed, malfeasance, corruption

We need a hero. Will someone of means please sue our state legislators, to force them to do their job and exhibit a little character? We must defeat forced pooling once and for all, by civil means because our government representatives refuse to support our constitutional rights.

Legislators continue to deceptively tout that by legalizing forced pooling, they are just trying to meet the needs of their constituents. That is false. They know it and everyone else knows it.

What they have repeatedly tried to do, is deny individual citizens their constitutional rights to property; by forcibly taking individual’s property without constitutional due process; and, by passing punitive forced pooling legislation that violates our constitutional protections.

Wake up West Virginia! This third attempt to pass a forced pooling bill is nothing more than greed, corruption and/or malfeasance, take your pick.

The madness known as the forced pooling initiative needs to be stopped once and for all; and any legislator whose fingerprints are on this proposed bill must be fired immediately.

All legislators take an oath to support our constitutions and some knowingly and intentionally fail to live up to their oath. Does anyone think the following oath is being honored?

“I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of West Virginia and faithfully discharge the duties of Delegate according to the best of my ability.

“I will not accept or receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, from any corporation, company or person, for any vote or influence I may give or withhold, as Delegate on any bill, resolution or appropriation, or for any act I may do or perform as Delegate.”

Everyone cries we need to fix the system, well here’s our opportunity. Let’s remove from office those who are using their elected authority to subvert our freedoms, and reject their kind from future public employment.

Rick Humphreys, Mannington, Marion County, WV


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