Natural Gas drillers want to “pool” around hold-outs

    Drillers say it’s better for the environment. Lawmakers are skeptical it’s good for anything other than the industry’s bottom line.

    An industry tax on Pennsylvania’s lucrative natural gas reserves is one of the keys to lifting the state’s sagging finances. But in exchange the gas industry is pushing for a concession that some say would infringe on individual property rights.

    Some landowners don’t want to lease their mineral rights to gas companies. But if the industry has its way, what property owners want, won’t matter. State lawmakers are drafting a bill that would allow for what’s called “pooling” — or the ability of gas companies to extract gas from beneath the land of a hold-out.

    Matt Pitzarelli is a spokesperson for Range Resources. Pitzarelli says the practice is more efficient for industry. But it also has environmental and economic benefits for landowners.

    “It’s a conservation law that would assure that we have the least number of drilling locations as possible and assure that royalty owners are maximizing the amount of natural gas produced from their units. And what it is not, it is not eminent domain.”

    But not all lawmakers agree.

    “Prove it to us,” says Matt Maciorkowski, spokesman for Democratic state representative Bud George of Clearfield County.

    “We want to see the exact language, spacing requirements, limitations. We want clear cut rules showing there will be an environmental benefit.”

    Lawmakers plan to have a Marcellus Shale tax in place by October first. Maciorkowski says if the bill is accompanied by a pooling proposal, expect a fight.

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