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Justice calls for special session to address co-tenancy, says he’d veto the bill


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice took a swing at the oil and gas industry’s biggest bill of the session Monday morning, saying he might veto the measure if it continues through the Senate.

Justice, speaking at a town hall meeting with teachers at Wheeling Park High School, called for a special legislative session on the so-called “co-tenancy bill,” which would allow drillers to lease a tract of land with permission of 75 percent of landowners, down from the existing-law standard of 100 percent. In the crowd, many wore red in a show of solidarity with the ongoing teacher and school service personnel work stoppage. The town hall in Wheeling was the first of three throughout the day; the other two were in Martinsburg and Morgantown.

Justice said Monday he would urge the Senate to strike down the bill and that he would take the idea of vetoing House Bill 4268 into “extreme consideration.”

“I will call us into special session to find a way out through co-tenancy and joint development and the mineral rights people — you’ve got to find a way that satisfies everybody and raises the severance tax on natural gas,” he said via his Twitter account.

H.B. 4268 is the industry’s third shot at a bill that addresses drilling on unwilling or unlocatable owners’ land. Three years ago, a measure known as the “forced pooling bill” died the last night of the session in a tied vote. Last year, the bill included a provision for “joint development” of several contiguous oil and gas leases for horizontal drilling, except for instances when leases specifically prohibited horizontal drilling, which was unheard of and uncommon when older West Virginia leases were written. The bill died on the House floor, where it originated and was passed in a 60-40 vote this year.

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