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In WV, This Land is Your Land ... Unless There are Mineral Rights

October 22, 2007

Charleston, WV – With oil and gas permit applications on the rise, many West Virginia property owners are in for a rude awakening when the owners of mineral rights show up to build roads and set up wells on the land. A new group of surface landowners has formed to call for greater protections -- of their rights as landowners, and the land itself -- by oil and gas operators.

Attorney David McMahon helped start the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization. He says surface owners often receive very short notice of drilling, and end up having little or no say in where roads are placed and how their land is treated.

"A lot of times, the surface owners feel, and do, get kind-of 'run over top of.' There are some oil and gas drillers who come out and talk to people first and work things out; but there are others who just say, 'We can put this wherever we want.'"

McMahon says a recent boom in oil and gas license applications should make it a top priority for state lawmakers to level the playing field, so to speak, for surface owners.

"The driller ought to be required to give the surface owner 60 or 90 days' notice before they're going to come in and tell them where they want the well sites to go, and to ask where the surface owner wants the roads to go."

McMahon adds the public response to the new surface owners' group is heartening; it has members in 40 of the state's 55 counties so far.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WV