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Environment


Property owners try the courts
Their question: should mineral rights leases signed before anybody knew about new drilling remain valid?
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


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Tim Rudell
 
Oil drillling rig in central Carroll County
Courtesy of Tim Rudell
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In The Region:

Law suits over gas and oil drilling rights are cropping up around the region:  in Columbiana; Trumbull; and now Stark counties.  WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports on how our shale gas boom may also be a litigation boom.

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Years, decades, even generations ago, land owners were signing deals for shallow natural gas wells and storage on their property.  No one imagined that technologies like horizontal drilling would one day tap vast oil and gas resources in the underlying shale.   Alan Wenger has been a mineral rights lawyer in Ohio for a quarter of a century.  “now that the holders of those leases realize the potential, they’re digging in and saying ‘we are entitled to everything.”   

Property owners signed on to those old leases would be out of luck.   So, citing technical legal issues, and that the documents didn’t cover future developments, land holders—by the dozens, and growing in numbers--are going to court. 

Will they succeed?   Alan Wenger says, its too early to tell. “To my knowledge there has been no court decision one way or the other, and it’ll take some time for those cases to wind through the courts.  So we don’t have any real precedent to go on.”

There have been no in-court arguments yet.  

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