Is Something Wrong When Money is More Important than Health & Safety in Drilling Leases?

A recent report from CNNMoney in Lycoming County in Pennsylvania stated that multiple fracking violations have arisen on landowners’ properties. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cited violations that ranged “from simple things such as improper signage to serious infractions such as subpar cementing — which according to DEP can allow gas to seep out of a well and in some cases ‘has the potential to cause a fire or explosion.'” [1] While this can be extremely troubling for some, the most puzzling part about it may lie in that the DEP does not have to notify landowners if a violation is discovered. Apparently, even if said landowners inquire about such violations, the records are typically too technical for the average person to understand.

Video: Gas Drilling’s Passive Regulator

26 families in this community have natural gas wells on their land and apparently none of them have been notified at all about the violations. This spans 62 safety violations over four entire years. Now to give the DEP some credit, they do notify the landowners in issues where human health could be at risk, but it would seem that if there were infractions cited that could have the potential to cause an explosion, then some notification may be a necessity.

Now what’s really interesting in this situation is that even though the landowners were troubled and had no idea of any of the infractions, they still desired for the drilling to continue. While this may seem outlandish at first, things might make sense when money is brought into the picture. According to the report, one family “made about $150,000 in royalties off of the wells on their property in the last three years.”[1] In the video, it is apparent that the landowners really enjoy the extra money coming in. They’re not rich, but it sure is a good amount of money to them. That’s true also because it’s a good amount of money for almost everyone in the United States. With an annual salary on top of that, those landowners are making a great deal of money and they don’t want that to stop.

When leasing out your property when seismography tests prove positive, many issues can occur. The owners can be unprepared and strike up a very bad deal because the reward seems so appealing and they’re not very knowledgeable on the subject. Various state sites such as Maryland and Ohio have specific information to help landowners lease their property for oil and gas in their state [2, 3]. One interesting tidbit is that the negotiation of depth should be included. This is in benefit to the landowner because some smaller companies with smaller rigs can only go to a certain depth, yet hold the lease for years. Well, during that time one could lease to a larger company that want to drill even deeper instead of having to wait till the lease ends. [4] All in all, it is interesting how money can truly change people, and convince them to make decisions that they wouldn’t normally make. People should be informed, and negotiate correctly. Violations need change because that should be unacceptable. But as the famous statistician Laplace would state, hope and high emotion can convince people to make decisions which they would normally not make in other situations.

[1] http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/01/news/economy/fracking-violations/index.htm?hpt=hp_c1

[2] http://www.oag.state.md.us/Environment/MS_leasing.pdf

[3] http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/mineral/landowner/tabid/17732/default.aspx

[4] http://www.ehow.com/how_4503106_lease-oil-natural-gas-exploration.html

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One response to “Is Something Wrong When Money is More Important than Health & Safety in Drilling Leases?

  1. lbissey

    I agree that landowners should be notified of major violations occurring on their land, but I don’t think there is a need to supply a packet of all violations including those as minor as improper signage. A huge problem with all of the recent natural gas drilling and production is a lack of education of the process and understanding the real, not perceived, threats. There are issues that need to be addressed such as air and water quality, but the extent of severity and the threat they pose to the public is wildly overestimated in many cases. Landowners have the right to know what’s happening on their property, but they should definitely be given (at least offered) a crash course on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing before jumping into a deal. Even if the DEP or the companies operating on the land started to notify landowners of violations, it would be fruitless unless the landowners actually knew what they meant. And again there is the problem of over-exaggeration and outrage over violations that may not even be a threat at all. And it is surprising that this issue is coming up in Pennsylvania in the first place, considering they are one of the states that is most concerned with environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

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