Gas rush on in Pocahontas County
The Marcellus shale gas deposit, extending 600 miles and underlying areas of New York, Pennsylvania, and most of West Virginia, is generating excitement and controversy.
Researchers estimate that the shale contains more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, although current technology will limit the recovery to 10%.
Proponents argue that this resource will reduce our energy dependence on foreign sources and can supply our national demand for natural gas for two years.ﾠ However, research has shown that there are definite environmental and human health concerns, the effects of which could be felt long after the resource is exhausted, according to The Oil and Gas Sustainability Project, www.ogap.org
The turnout at Elkins Farm Bureau Surface Rights Information meeting on Friday made clear that the gas rush is on in West Virginia.
Since the beginning of the year courthouses all over West Virginia have been full of landmen from in and out of state doing title searches to see which surface landowners also own gas, oil and/or mineral rights.
These landmen soon began offering landowners $20 an acre to lease these rights.ﾠ Now, only a few months later, some residents of Pocahontas County have been offered up to $1000/acre to lease their oil and gas rights.ﾠ
The Surface Owner's Rights Organization in Charleston speculated that prices will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
Pocahontas County residents are talking to their neighbors, trying to understand the pros and cons of deep well drilling in the county.
Charles Wilfong, President of the Pocahontas County Farm Bureau, advised caution to attendees at the Elkins meeting.
"There is a lot to take into consideration. Take your time," he said. ﾠ"Water in a lease is something to be careful of.ﾠ Water could be as high of a commodity as gas in the future.ﾠ We need to protect it."
He stated that the gas and oil leasing issue has generated more interest and brought more people out to meetings that any other Farm Bureau issue in the past.
Wilfong said at a May Farm Bureau meeting here that he didn't want to stop landowners from signing leases, but he did want them to make informed decisions.
"The purpose [of the meeting] is to try to get the best deal for property owners so we don't have damage to our properties," he said.
All speakers reminded attendees to take their time and not to sign anything potential leasers didn't understand.
Speakers also recommended that landowners find a lawyer who is familiar with oil and gas leases to review any lease documents.ﾠ The main speaker of the evening David McMahon, an attorney who wrote the Surface Owners' Guide To Oil and Gas, suggested attendees contact the Surface Owner's Right's Organization with any additional lease questions.
"This is a big step and affects land use for future generations.ﾠ Don't let them rush you.ﾠ Don't get divided from your neighbors.ﾠ Once you sign that lease, you are a surface owner," he said.
The meeting was originally scheduled to take place at the Holiday Inn, but soon exceeded maximum capacity, with landowners backed up through the hall and spilling into the parking lot.ﾠ The meeting moved to a larger space at the American Legion Hall across the street, and when it filled again, nearly 100 people stood outside.ﾠ Even after the meeting began, 50 more people were asked to leave to comply with the Fire Marshal's capacity for the hall of 200 occupants.ﾠ
This is the first in a series of articles concerning gas leasing in the area. Next week's focus will be understanding deep well drilling and how it affects air, water and soil.