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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Law - "Learning Too Late of the Perils in Gas Well Leases"

The NY Times this week ran a long, useful article on oil and gas lease contracts. A few quotes:

Americans have signed millions of leases allowing companies to drill for oil and natural gas on their land in recent years. But some of these landowners — often in rural areas, and eager for quick payouts — are finding out too late what is, and what is not, in the fine print.

Energy company officials say that standard leases include language that protects landowners. But a review of more than 111,000 leases, addenda and related documents by The New York Times suggests otherwise:

* Fewer than half the leases require companies to compensate landowners for water contamination after drilling begins. And only about half the documents have language that lawyers suggest should be included to require payment for damages to livestock or crops.

* Most leases grant gas companies broad rights to decide where they can cut down trees, store chemicals, build roads and drill. Companies are also permitted to operate generators and spotlights through the night near homes during drilling.

* In the leases, drilling companies rarely describe to landowners the potential environmental and other risks that federal laws require them to disclose in filings to investors.

* Most leases are for three or five years, but at least two-thirds of those reviewed by The Times allow extensions without additional approval from landowners. If landowners have second thoughts about drilling on their land or want to negotiate for more money, they may be out of luck.

The leases — obtained through open records requests — are mostly from gas-rich areas in Texas, but also in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Sidebars to the story include "A Layman’s Guide to Lease Terms."

Also, quite remarkably, the NY Times has digitized and made available online a database of "more than 111,000 oil and gas leases and related documents," noting that "The Times collected the leases and other related documents, signed between 2007 and 2011, because many leasing experts said that they lacked an ability to review a diversity of leases to compare terms."

Also linked is this "Natural Gas Forum for Landowners."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 3, 2011 11:14 AM
Posted to Environment | General Law Related