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After heated debate, controversial oil and gas bill moves to West Virginia Senate


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lawmakers debated a high-profile oil and natural gas bill for more than two hours Thursday before finally passing it on to the Senate.

All told, about 15 delegates spoke for and against House Bill 4268, which would allow companies to drill on unwilling or unlocatable mineral owners’ land. It finally passed, with 60 votes for, and 40 against and with most Republicans voting for and most Democrats against.

Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and penned the committee substitute, said the bill hit home for him. He found himself dealing with the issue of co-tenancy this year when he realized his father owned a fraction of minerals and was unknowingly standing in the way of drilling on that land.

“What this bill does is create a method to resolve the deadlock, the impasse that may exist, when a small minority wishes to refrain from participating and effectively denying the majority — in this case 75 percent or more — from utilizing the asset and getting some benefit from it,” he said.

Other lawmakers still see the bill as an affront to the rights of the minority, they said Thursday.

“I’ve been sitting here listening to various arguments and, in preparing for today, I looked back at some of our founders, and one of the most important things they set forth was that a democracy requires minority rights that are equal to the majority,” said Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, who voted against the bill.

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