West Virginia Man Files Suit to Keep Natural Gas Wells Off His Property

A West Virginia man has filed suit to prevent natural gas drilling on his property. According to The Republic, the two gas companies named as defendants in the lawsuit own the mineral rights under Richard Cain’s property. However, the Marion County man claims the mineral rights don’t give them the right to sink surface wells on his land in order to access natural gas located under his neighbor’s property.

Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy and Glenville-based Waco Oil and Gas plan to use hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, to access the natural gas. In fracking, a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is injected into the ground at high pressure to shake loose gas and oil deposits. Opponents of fracking are concerned that this type of natural gas drilling could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources, either through the release of naturally-occurring hazardous substances or as a result of spills or leaks involving fracking fluid or fracking wastewater.

Cain claims that the drilling will disrupt 36 of the 105 acres he hopes to one day leave to his children, and that the amount of gas the drilling will obtain is too small to justify that disruption. He also claims that ownership of the mineral rights doesn’t give the companies the power to drill multiple wells, the Republic said.

According to Cain’s lawsuit, XTO has already received regulatory approval for one 12-acre drill pad on his land, which would accommodate six natural gas wells. XTO plans to put two more pads on Cain’s land, which will disrupt 40 percent of his property, the lawsuit alleges.

Cain also takes exception with the state law that requires drilling companies to compensate surface owners for lost income, expenses and damages. Cain’s lawyer told the Associated Press that compensation should be based on what the land is worth to the buyer – in this case the driller – rather than what it is worth to the seller. He suggested Cain is entitled to about $25,000 per well.

According to The Republic, XTO started operating on Cain’s property last year, but he waited to bring his suit because state legislators were working on new drilling regulations. However, lawmakers failed to approve anything before the last legislative session ended.

As we reported previously, legislative leaders in West Virginia announced last month that they would form a special joint committee to come up with new drilling rules. The state’s governor has said that if the legislature comes to an agreement on fracking regulations, he would call a special session to vote on the rules.

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