BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. -- Seven families are fighting to stop a natural gas company's last-minute drilling plans on their land before the company's lease expires next month.
The McRoberts family woke up Tuesday morning to find tree-cutters lined up along their property in Darlington, Beaver County, getting ready to clear a quarter-mile path to a proposed gas well site.
"Four generations of McRoberts have farmed this land, and we pay the taxes and they're going to tell us what they're going to do? And they lied from the beginning," said property owner Susan McRoberts.
When Channel 4 Action News' Jim Parsons went to the McRoberts' property, the tree-cutters left without cutting any branches.
"Chesapeake (Energy) doesn't even have a permit to drill this well, and yet they want to come in here and cut these folks' trees down without any compensation," said McRoberts family attorney Steve Townsend.
Townsend filed a lawsuit Tuesday against O & G Investment of Ohio, which signed gas leases with the McRoberts and six other families in 2005.
O & G sold those leases last year to Chesapeake Energy, which is also named in the suit.
The suit accuses O & G of "intentionally and fraudulently misrepresenting to the plaintiffs that (it) would reasonably develop the mineral resources underlying their land."
"They promised these people the world and didn't pay a dime, and took their land and held it hostage for years," said Townsend.
With the leases set to expire next month, the McRoberts are trying to stop Chesapeake from conducting a last-minute drilling operation.
"It's too late, too late. Listen Jim, I couldn't rent a car for $200 a month and not pay for it. They've had thousands of acres of land here that they've not paid one cent for and they've held it seven to 10 years and haven't paid anybody any money," said Townsend.
Chesapeake Energy has not commented.
Drill Baby Drill...
I like where you are going with this....but it wouldn't be necessary to have steps to protect the landowners (mostly ignorant and elderly) (not ignorant because of being stupid...but ignorant of the tactics and the process) if the oil companies would play fair in this lease process. Yet they are improving but not because of them but because of people who are getting wise to their tactics.
do your due dilligence .. just like the companies have to do on title and leases on your property.... BEFORE YOU SIGN THE LEASE!!
Yet in the early and mid 2000's many people didn't understand what to look for...some had yet to even install computers...some even now in those rural areas have no cable or computer. Many were told, hurry up cause we plan to leave the area and we won't be here long offering these prices...and many land agents were believable...until people started seeing that the prices did indeed start to rise and the competition moved into each county.
I think people are wiser these days ...and I do hope that more and more people do have landgroups and contact with those who have learned more about gas leasing....
but the concern now for several areas is the pipeline contracts. This is where I feel that the county /local townships should start having meetings about how to help one another when doing these contracts for pipelines...cause the granting clause on a pipeline contract is one time and it is covering more than one pipeline....it could even go as far as processing plants, etc.
This is an area for new landgroup help only pipeline groups. An attorney to oversee the group....if a neighbor gets a pipeline agreement...then they should let the agent know that their community wants involved with helping each other in estabishing a good contract. This is not an area to play games or to trust the pipeline agent....it is a one time contract and it is needed to allow the flow of multi million dollars of natural gas....if the people would work together even now...about what to do when the neighbors start getting offers...it will be more productive.
I guess what I am trying to say is that if the local community doesn't offer help or plan ways to get the neighbors involved in knowing where to go for help in doing these gas leases or pipeline contracts....and the need to do so.....then it would be better to pass legislation to require that an attorney or a qualified gas leasing expert review the contract to make sure both Lessor and lessee have been fair to one another. It would save on any future litigation perhaps...and it sure would improve the process even putting more monies in bonus and royalties at the same time the oil company would also benefit as they would be a better neighbor and it wouldn't feel like a shot gun wedding.
and as far as you mentioning house buying in NJ with a lawyer...didn't know that...I just found this link though that explains that better....now why did all that come about? not because people want to pay attorneys...it was because of dishonest and deceitful practices that take advantage of the ignorant and elderly..