By Austin Babrow and Alyssa R. Bernstein
“If I had known what I was getting into, I would not have leased my land.” This was told by a resident of Wetzel County, WV, to visitors from Hocking College, on March 9, 2012.
If you have leased your land to Cunningham for gas or oil drilling, you may now (after the March 15 payout deadline) have an opportunity to reconsider your lease in order to better protect yourself and others. If you do, then keep in mind that homeowners’ insurance does not protect your home or land from drilling damage. Also keep in mind that it may be difficult or impossible to refinance or sell your property if leasing violates the terms of an existing mortgage. Fracking may cause your house and land to lose their value.
If you still want to renew your lease or sign a new one, then make sure the lease includes:
(1) a requirement for the company to pay for complete baseline water testing (Tier 1-3);
(2) a requirement for the company to disclose all chemicals used in the fracking process;
(3) a guarantee that you will retain unlimited access to your property before, during, and after the fracking; and
(4) a guarantee that you and your neighbors will not have to suffer 24/7 from loud noise and bright lights.
Since mineral leases were signed last November in Athens County, significant events have happened. A conference of doctors has called “for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until the risks are better understood.” (CNN, January 10, 2012). ODNR has acknowledged “compelling” evidence that disposing of fracking fluids deep underground caused earthquakes near Youngstown. (ODNR Executive Summary, March, 2012, p. 3). An OSU study announced that shale gas promoters “overestimated Ohio shale job creation by about 400%” (OSU, March 8, 2012). And energy companies and state regulators have joined the “consensus that natural-gas drilling has led to several incidents of water pollution.” (Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2012).
Cunningham Energy’s Joe Blackhurst said his company is partnering with “a well-known publicly traded company.” That is not true. They have no such partner, but continue to try to sell Athens County land to anyone willing to pay. (Athens Messenger, March 11, 2012).
Time is on your side. If there’s gas or oil in the ground, it’s not going anywhere. Take the time to learn about fracking and protect yourself and others.