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Gas Lease Mania
As with many landowners here in Susquehanna County, I have recently been bombarded with gas lease offers, visits from landsmen, and drawn into many a conversation with my neighbors about the pros and cons of signing a lease with one of these companies. Almost every day the subject somehow comes up as to who signed, who is thinking of it and for how much.
Tuesday night's meeting on Natural Gas Exploration and Leasing at Montrose High School proved to be a very informative and eye opening event – the place was jammed with an eager and receptive crowd as we were treated to over 2 1/2 hours of expert advice from an attorney, an accountant, a Farm Bureau president and a land reclamation expert.
If you haven't heard about gas leases in this area, it is time to educate yourself, as this is a very real situation that will impact all of our lives here in one way or another.
I was first approached in April of 2007 and offered a paltry $50.00 an acre as a "sign on bonus." It was truly amazing at how many people I knew who jumped at this offer, and signed up without ever even consulting an attorney! These bonus offers continued to climb steadily throughout the year, and I am hearing that they are now as high as $ 1,500 per acre! Needless to say, there are some hard feelings with some of these early birds who jumped in with both feet after being told that "that's as high as it will ever be." Now, I am not independently wealthy and could use this money as well as anyone else, but could I really sign something as unknown and binding as a lease with some total stranger, not knowing the facts? No way would I jeopardize the land my father handed down to me and loved so much without knowing a lot more.
The purpose of my letter is not to malign, discourage or discredit any industry that would bring in some much-needed revenue to our area – I am all for it – but to share my limited (but growing) knowledge of the situation and the pointers we were given at the meeting, and urge anyone who is considering signing on to please educate yourself and get the facts! It is far from a simple transaction and one that could affect you, your land and lifestyle for years to come as well as that of future generations.
Like any other type of legal agreement, these gas leases are legal and binding – don’t be blindsided by the dangling of the "bonus carrot" without knowing exactly what the lease means – they can be tricky. The real money (should gas be located) will come at the backend – with the royalties that you are paid as a percentage of what the well(s) produce. I will not go into mathematical calculations, but this can add up to way more than a bonus. Also, be assured that most points in these leases are negotiable – especially the miserly 1/8 of the royalties that is the minimum that Pennsylvania law requires gas companies to pay ( this, by the way is the same amount that was offered as far back as the 1870s!).
Drilling rights can also be negotiated by prices per well, and can range from $ 10,000 – $30,000. Are you aware of "forced pooling"? Mineral rights clauses? There is so much more than meets the eye.
With all due respect to the state of Pennsylvania – there are many antiquated laws pertaining to these gas explorations and leases that need some serious revamping before any of us can profit or understand this tremendous undertaking that is sweeping the area.
I met many fine, hardworking people at this meeting who are willing to try to work together and perhaps form a coalition, such as ones that are located in other counties, to try to enact better and more profitable legislative measures that will benefit us as landowners, and the state as a whole if we are able to keep our profits where they benefit us most – right here is our own communities.
In conclusion I just want to reiterate, to exercise caution and educate yourself before you jump in – read everything you can on it – Google it – there is a lot of info on the 'net.
communicate with your neighbors, as well as those who are not fulltime residents and own land here, find out who's in, who's not. Whether you sign a lease or not, this can still affect you and perhaps not in a positive way.
If you decide to go for it, don't make a move without a good attorney to go over the lease; add addendums, and make changes. You have the power to negotiate, it is your land! Do you really want to jeopardize it by not knowing exactly what is involved?
We were also urged to attend the February 4 meeting at Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lehman Center, concerning gas leases, details of which can be found on the Penn State web site. I am sure it will be a very informative event, too.
Look before you leap, and remember that knowledge is power.
Sherri W. Silvestre
Restore Some Respect
It has been said about the late President Ronald Reagan, that his greatest service was in restoring respect of Americans for themselves, and in their own government. The restoration of faith in government was an ironic twist for a man who was strongly against government.
As everyone has, I have been following all candidates to see which one I can distrust the least. I recently read that this is only the second time in the history of Susquehanna County that the County Commissioners are leading Democrats. I think that sends a very strong message, as we now also have the opportunity to test the theory. The county stats in May of 2007, there were 9043 (32.8%) Democrat, 15500 (56.2%) Republican, and 3010 (10.9%) Independents. When the results were tallied, I was very surprised. Maybe more folks are voting independently.
All these choices in candidates just running for President, is very exciting. No other time in history has there been such an inclusive group of candidates. That is an important message. I listen to the debates, and watch the body language for even more telling of their true intentions, and I still can't tell. I tease that I must be a liberal Republican, because despite my being born in the blood of the grand old party, I think you can still be socially conscious without creating another branch of government. My true belief is to remove some of the layers we navigate through now. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people you can meet, and have them sign the form please, just to get anything done.
It seems like three presidents ago, I was not aware of the dire straits we are in. I thought weather ran in cycles, extinction happened, and there is order in the chaos. Now I hear of global warming, big brother, and terrorist activities. I think that is why there are so many candidates to choose from. There are now so many issues to choose from. I do hope for all politicians that they will step up, maybe take a page from President Reagan, restore some respect in the elected position. I can see that if they don't get the message, more will vote independently, and surprise the world with their choice.
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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