Get public input about forced ‘pooling’

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers likely will see some version of a forced pooling bill during the 60-day session, which begins Jan. 14. Similar bills failed in three of the past four sessions.

Incoming House Speaker Tim Armstead said Republican leaders already are talking about such a measure. The only way they should support such a bill is if it has the public’s approval.

The natural gas industry wants forced pooling, as many parcels of mineral rights have multiple owners. This can make putting together a 640-acre drilling unit next to impossible, as each owner must agree to a lease.

When even one mineral owner objects, perhaps because he wants a higher royalty rate than the companies are willing to pay, drillers are out of luck. Forced pooling would set up a mechanism whereby such owners could, in effect, be forced to allow drilling in exchange for compensation rates set by state law. Ohio currently allows forced pooling, while Pennsylvania does not.

As we’ve said before, the idea of forcing someone to sell something for a price lower than he or she may be willing to accept is wrong to many West Virginians. Incoming Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, agrees.

“Forced pooling is a violation of private property rights. This bill would essentially grant favored private businesses the power of eminent domain,” he said.

Again, the public’s input and approval is vital to this issue. Lawmakers should remember that during the session.

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