White’s bill bans forced pooling for gas drilling

HARRISBURG, Pa. – 46th District Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil Township, introduced House Bill 1700 Thursday, legislation banning the practice of forced pooling property for natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, was referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for consideration.

Forced pooling allows gas drilling companies to drill under property even if the property owner does not want to lease his or her land, pooling the property together with adjacent owners who have agreed to lease their land for drilling.

The passage of Act 66 allows some forced pooling in Pennsylvania by permitting a drilling company to force people who previously agreed to leases for shallow wells to allow their property to be pooled into larger drilling units without having full power to negotiate better deals in return.

“We need to be helping Pennsylvanians, not hurting them, and forced pooling hurts Pennsylvanians,” said White. “Gov. (Tom) Corbett flat-out said he wouldn’t sign forced pooling legislation and then turned around and did exactly that, taking away from the landowner all negotiating power and leverage for lease terms, which encompasses more than just money. The only winner from forced pooling is a drilling company that would no longer have to negotiate a lease. Pennsylvania landowners are the losers from forced pooling, which shouldn’t be allowed to happen, and something needs to be done to fix that.”

The National Association of Royalty Owners objected to the forced pooling in Act 66.

“This law is a huge handout to oil and gas developers, as thousands of acres, particularly in southwestern Pennsylvania currently held by shallow oil and gas production, are now able to be tapped for hydrocarbons thousands of feet below the surface of the earth,” said Ryan J. Rupert, NARO Pennsylvania Chapter board member. “Oil and gas owners whose properties are tied up by old leases should be up in arms and call on their legislators for action to repeal the forced pooling provisions of Act 66.”

White’s legislation would prohibit the use of forced pooling or unitization.

“The best way to avoid confusion and illustrate that Pennsylvania does not support forced pooling is to pass a law saying so in simple and unambiguous terms,” White said. “My legislation would repeal the forced pooling/unitization provision in Act 66 and prohibit such actions of any kind in Pennsylvania, plain and simple. Unfortunately, the legislature now needs to act to demonstrate to Governor Corbett that basic property rights of Pennsylvanians are more valuable than the bottom line of natural gas drilling companies.”