Sep 8 2010

Forced Pooling

Gas Industry Wants Forced Pooling In Pennsylvania;

Forced Pooling = Eminent Domain

2 Pennsylvania Legislators Want to Give Gas

Industry More “Taking” Power Over Property Rights

Gas Industry Already Takes Property Rights

for Pipelines & Underground Gas Storage Reservoirs

Two Pennsylvania legislators, a Democrat and a Republican, want to give gas companies the right to take gas from property owners who do not want to lease.

They call their proposed legislation – now seeking co-sponsors – “conservation pooling” and the gas industry is pushing for this legislation.  It doesn’t think private property owners have a right to say no to what it wants – your mineral rights.

Pennsylvania State Representatives Marc Gergely (35th legislative district, Allegheny County, Democrat) and Garth Everett (84th legislative district, Lycoming County, Republican) have drafted forced pooling legislation under the title “Conservation Pooling Act.”

As of this writing, the bill has not yet been introduced – however, both representatives sent a “Request for Co-Sponsorship” to all House Members on June 15, 2010.  And they are speaking publicly about the bill.  (Read the complete co-sponsorship letter at footnote #1 under Links & Resources below.)1

Now is the time to let Messrs. Gergely and Everett know that you oppose more power for the gas companies to seize mineral rights.

“These People … Won’t Even Know”

Representative Everett is quoted in the (Williamsport, PA) Sun-Gazette (July 14, 2010) as saying, “Eminent domain is taking surface land.  These people won’t even know it’s taking place,” he said.2

“These people” – really?

If Everett is accurately quoted, his understanding of eminent domain as “surface land” is offensive to property owners who are victims of eminent domain – AND it is legally uninformed.

Property is property whether it is above or below the surface.  In Bedford County, PA, Spectra Energy went after surface and subsurface rights.  What does the term “mineral rights” suggest to most people?

‘Eminent Domain in Sheep’s Clothing’

Other property owners – and voters – notice.  John Trallo of Sullivan County, PA, wrote to Representative Everett (emphasis added):

“…regardless of the language and terminology used, ‘fair pooling’ is forced pooling/eminent domain in sheep’s clothing.  It is an infringement upon our rights as property owners.  Even those who support this industry and have leased their land agree this is wrong.”

Representative Everett offers citizens and voters a 4-page summary of his position paper on this subject.  (For a copy of the position paper, see footnote #3 under Links & Resources below.)3

In his next-to-the-last paragraph, he writes:

“I do intend to ensure … that every property owner who wants to participate in Marcellus development gets an opportunity to do so.”

This begs a big question:  What about every property owner who does not want to participate?  Will he ensure their rights too?

Gas Company Tactics Moving Into PA

We are seeing the tactics gas companies use in western states moving into Pennsylvania as part of the shale gas “boom.”

For example, based on information from the Public Utility Commission, at least 6 pipeline companies are registered in Pennsylvania as utilities, giving them the right to take property easements via eminent domain, according to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.4

We speak from experience:  Eminent domain – and/or its step children like forced pooling – is a sobering event.  It amounts to legal theft under the badge of government.  Private property owners quickly learn that they are not standing on a level playing field legally, politically, or economically.

Our battle began three years ago with Houston-based Spectra Energy that seized property rights for a 12-billion-cubic feet underground gas storage reservoir with a nearly 5,000 horsepower compressor station and 13 injection/withdrawal wells.

In addition, Spectra Energy can frack those “storage” wells anytime it wants, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

That experience led to the development of this website.  Today we continue to reach out to property owners and communities in many states who are dealing with the adverse impacts on property rights from energy companies.

If you want to learn from our experience with this type of eminent domain, read this post: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=616

Protect Your Property Rights Now

In the meantime, act now to protect your property rights by contacting Representatives Marc Gergely and Garth Everett, telling them you do not support this form of eminent domain in sheep’s clothing.

While no bill has been introduced yet, they are seeking co-sponsors and they are speaking publicly on this legislation.  Ask them to reconsider and withdraw such legislation no matter what phase it is in.

In addition, contact your own legislators and ask them not to co-sponsor such forced pooling legislation (known as the “Conservation Pooling Act”).  If it is introduced, ask them to vote against it.

Contact Information

State Representative Marc J. Gergely

35th legislative district, Allegheny County (Democrat)

Website: http://www.pahouse.com/gergely/

Harrisburg Office

325 Main Capitol Bldg.

PO Box 202035

Harrisburg, PA 17120-2035

Phone: (717) 783-1018

State Representative Garth Everett

84th legislative district, Lycoming County (Republican)

Harrisburg Office

Hon. Garth Everett

413 Irvis Office Building

PO Box 202084

Harrisburg PA 17120-2084

(717) 787-5270

Fax: (717) 772-9958

E-mail: geverett@pahousegop.com

Links & Resources

1 “Conservation Pooling” – Letter from Representatives Gergely and Everett requesting co-sponsorship of their forced pooling legislation.  Pdf file: forced-pooling-sponsorship

2 Representative Garth Everett on “These people won’t even know …” News article:  “Bill an end-run on holdouts – Skeptical landowners’ mineral rights treated as obstacle to more drilling.” (Williamsport-Sun Gazette by Mike Reuther, July 14, 2010)  Link: http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/546022/Bill-an-end-run-on-holdouts.html

Or pdf file here:  forced-pooling-bill-sungazette

3 Representative Everett’s position paper on forced pooling. Pdf file:  gas-pooling-position

4 Texas Pipeline Companies Getting Eminent Domain Power in PA – Reporter Andrew Maykuth connected the dots in this Philadelphia Inquirer article of April 16, 2010, titled:  “Eminent domain an issue in siting Pa. Gas lines.”

Link: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/business/20100416_Eminent_domain_an_issue_in_siting_Pa__gas_lines.html

Or pdf file here:  eminent-domain-an-issue-in-siting-pa-gas-lines

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