I have spent several hours this week on the phone with variuos branches of the PA Department of Environmental protection. I called them because of my ongoing concern that various drilling companies have xpressed a stratagy to tie up many acres of land for indefinite years of time by drilling shallow vertical wells and then unitizing large areas around them. These companies are concerned that they will run out of time in the next year or so on their leases to drill the wells and frack them properly to have a legitamite hold on the land. They either do not have funds to offer new leases at current market value or are completely unwilling to. The DEP issues the leases. They DO NOT get involved with limiting the size of units. Ther is a shale formation below the Marcellus, called the Onendoga, that was used as a boundry depth by the DEP many years ago to set up many of the now antiquated laws concerning unitizing and conservation wells. From what I could gather, the Marcellus shale is not really even affected by these laws because it is shallower than the Onendaga. From the DEP's website, it does appear that they do have some influence on unit size and spacing of wells in some parts of PA, but only when it concerns this Onendaga formation.
So, where does that leave vulnerable land owners? Much legislation is being thrown about to improve this situation. After all, the state cannot tax income from royalties, bonus money, or gas extracted if it doesn't happen for many years. This delay can happen if land is tied up because it is unitized around a shallow, nonproducing well. Call your representatives, congressmen, senators. In this instance the tax man is your friend. I would rather pay taxes on bonus money and royalties now, then never see that income at all. I would rather see that tax bill, thean look at an ineffective pipe sticking out of the ground for years to come. Taxes on this developement are inevitable and rightly so. Roads will wear out fast. Schools will have to be inlarged to handle the children of the workers, crime will increase. The list goes on and on. Taxes will increase in differnt ways as time goes by and the return on the wells will decrease. I would rather be drilled now at the beginning. If politicians are aware of the potential hazard of drilling shallow wells to lock up land, they may work quickly to prevent it. Perhaps they will even urge that the permit issuing process be more stringently monitored. Companies who start wells and suddenly decide to stop and start another elsewhere might find permits being issued slower or not at all for a time until proper proceedures and legistlation can be inacted.