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We need all the protection we can get

By Ken Mayers
March 31, 2011

My wife and I are landowners in Wayne County, PA. Eighteen months ago, as members of a local landowners’ alliance, we signed a lease for natural gas exploration on our property. Although there were a number of complicated reasons why we chose to sign a lease through the alliance, the desire to someday see a gas well on our property was not among them.

Several years ago, when we first learned about the prospect of natural gas drilling in our region, we were deeply concerned about the risks, and decided that we needed to learn as much as possible about the process. The most disappointing thing we learned was that Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Laws were written with a much greater emphasis on meeting the needs of industry than on protecting the interests of landowners. From every direction, we heard the same thing, “Whether you sign a lease or not, you’re going to be surrounded by gas drilling.” As such, we believed that joining an alliance of our neighbors was a smart thing to do, and in many ways, it was.

Through the alliance, we got mountains of information about gas drilling. Attorneys specializing in gas leases were consulted, and a lease was created that contained much better landowner protections than any we’d seen before. More importantly, the idea that there is strength in numbers appealed to us. Surely, working together with a network of landowners to negotiate better protections for our properties against the impacts of industry would be a more valuable approach than waiting around for the state to protect us with inadequate laws that were in many cases written by lobbyists for the gas industry.

We do not necessarily regret joining the alliance, but we have serious concerns about the public positions that the alliance’s leadership have taken. Our goal initially was to ensure the greatest possible protections for our property, and thanks to the collective work of the many volunteers in the alliance, we think the resulting lease will help us in working toward that goal. However, the alliance’s lease represents only one small part of what is needed. The protections contained within it will only be as strong as the collective voice of landowners who are willing to stand up and communicate to the gas industry that we will be watching and that we will also be looking out for one another as neighbors.

The Hick & 'Dissent'

I think 'The Hick' does the local populace a disservice (perhaps without realizing it) by suggesting that all local folks should (and actually do) think the same way. Yes, I suggested earlier that his baiting of 'outsiders' would resonate with a 'certain portion' of the local populace, but this was certainly not meant to include all (or even most) of those who live here.

The Hick seems to have no shortage of conspiracy theories to explain why others don't share his opinions, but none of them comes close to accounting for what I see and hear from my neighbors which is a diversity of concerns and opinions about this gas drilling issue.

His idea of 'dissent' is to shout down any neighbor who dares to hold an opinion that differs from his own, and then insist that those opinions must be the product of either some personal shortcoming or participation in some kind of conspiracy.

If The Hick is so fond of dissent, then why does he seem to have such a problem with anyone who's actually engaged in it?

Your comments are appreciated

In response to Mr. Barth's comment here, I am thankful that people are reading these posts, and appreciative of the fact that they are resonating with others.

I would caution, however, against the notion that the comments of someone like 'The Hick' are irrelevant. They may be angry and divisive, but in my view, they are not irrelevant.

For all we know, 'The Hick' may just be one of our local neighbors who happen to harbor a misguided prejudice against folks from somewhere else. He might also be someone sitting in front of his computer in Texas (or somewhere else distant from here) in the employ of the gas industry trolling these blogs and posting comments for the purpose of riling up one group of local folks against another. There's really no way for us to tell in an anonymous blog like this one.

However, even if 'The Hick' is not who he purports to be, his posts are prolific, intelligent and (even if somewhat misguided) they will resonate with a certain segment of the folks who live here right along side of us. Ignoring this reality would be a huge mistake, in my opinion.

'The Hick' may be wrong about a lot of things, but he is not wrong about everything. Polarization and Binary Thinking make it difficult for folks on both sides of the fence to see the legitimacy of what underlies the thinking of those on the 'other side', but some effort needs to be made in this direction. If we allow ourselves to become enemies with our neighbors, the only beneficiary will be the greatest 'outsider' of them all: The Gas Industry.

Thank you, Ken Mayers

When I read your view, and your subsequent comments, they are way beyond the usual, sad thoughts of your co-signer, TheHick.

His opinions are irrelevant to what we face, as a community. Yours show true concern.

Response to Comments

"The Hick's" comment sort of misses the point of the what's written here. Why is it so difficult to understand the motivation of wanting to 'minimize' the risks to one's property whether a lease was signed or not? The lease itself is an instrument for minimizing those risks, but having signed one does not necessarily mean that the concern about risks somehow disappears. Is "The Hick" suggesting that once a property owner signs a lease, that they should then simply lie down and let the gas companies do whatever they please, regardless of the consequences?

I'm still missing the point

If you want to minimize or accept no risk, sign no lease or sign what you believe to be an iron clad lease as I have. I am suggesting that once you enter into a contract as an adult, you must be willing and able to fulfill it. So the question is were you "duped", were you "coerced", or do you suffer from sellers' remorse? I really don't understand what you are shooting for here unless it is pity.

I'll Spell it Out For You

What I'm "shooting for" here is a public dialogue among folks in the community who understand that the issue of gas drilling in our region is complicated rather than just black and white.
I wrote the original article for a specific reason, and that was to voice my dis-satisfaction with certain public actions taken by some in the leadership of the landowners alliance to which my wife and I belong. Specifically, I do not think the alliance should be engaged in what amounts to lobbying for the interests of the gas industry by publicly opposing regulations on that industry. Neither do I think that the alliance should presume to publicly represent the interests of its members without first engaging in some kind of democratic process to determine A) What the membership thinks those interests actually are, and B) Whether the membership actually desires to be publicly represented with regard to those interests.

Neither of these steps were taken, and more importantly, myself and other members of the alliance had previously made private attempts to get the leadership to stop using the alliance to publicly advance a point of view that is not shared by many of its members. These requests were not honored, and rather than continue to be represented publicly in a manner not consistent with my own point of view, I chose to represent myself by writing the article to which these comments refer. The feedback that I've gotten from the article strongly suggests that there are a lot more members of the alliance who share these concerns than I originally suspected.

That stated, I would suggest that you consider the possibility that your persistence in missing the point may arise from a bit too much 'binary thinking'. You might also want to consider the possibility that your various posts on the subject of gas drilling have caused a number of your neighbors here in NEPA to wonder aloud if you're really just shilling for the gas industry.

Dissent equals shilling

I have not seen one credible argument against drilling yet. The only thing that comes close are accidents and spills which happen in every damn industry under the sun. What I do see are many many cleverly devised LIES by those who wish to "kill the drill". This "obstructionist" crowd appears to be a loose coalition of "have-nots", "status quo lovers", and genuinely misguided and misinformed sheep. The have-nots incorrectly perceive that they can not in their estimation profit directly from drilling and therefore do not support it. The Status quo lovers are second home owners and river lovers who have nothing to gain and perceive a threat to their bozo seasonal river guide service. There is still hope for the misguided and I strive to bring them to the light by means of logic, realism and (God forbid) humor.

If it appears that I harbor ill will against "transplants", you are mistaken as I am a sort of hybrid between long time local and transplant. I am just glad my transplant side knew enough to accept local custom and tradition rather than dominate it. The true snake here is the true agenda of the cleverest obstructionists. The ones who wish to starve, tax, and wait out the locals until they can sieze the lands in foreclosures and sheriff sales at their leisure. Keep them poor until it is ours at which time we shall release the flood gates and usurp that which was never ours.

I sincerely doubt the majority of your land group feels as you do. If so, the leadership would be voted out. The leadership got a good lease which is worthless so long as extraction is withheld.

You are correct in one area. My words resonate with the local populace not because they are ignorant or biased, but because they are true.

Interesting

You took the money but don't want any risk. That is a very interesting position.

Sadly, he was duped. The

Sadly, he was duped. The gentleman sounds quite disappointed. If he is referring to the nwpoa lease, go read it !...It is LAME on environmental protection and property rights versus Corporate interests.
Sorry that Ken and others did not thoroughly read it and understand who their 'leadership' truly represented.

Duped? Well, not exactly.

Perseusman should understand, in all fairness, that my primary criticism of the NWPOA is not related to the lease itself. Certainly, the lease could have been better in terms of environmental and landowner protections. We did read it (along with a number of other leases) and comparatively speaking, it had greater protections than most others that we looked at. Small consolation, perhaps, but I think it's better that much of Wayne county should be under that lease rather than company type leases.

However, getting a better lease would have required something that the NWPOA did not have in place at the time when the lease was being negotiated, and that would have been a greater number of individuals at the negotiating table who hadn't already decided that they were 'pro-drilling' before they actually saw the fine print. More importantly, to have this pro-drilling mind-set on public display before the lease was actually finished was a significant mistake in my opinion, because it put the leadership in a much weaker negotiating position than they would have otherwise been in. This may sound like 20/20 hindsight, but I did privately offer this point of view to the leadership before the lease was negotiated, and it was only met with unreasonable hostility.

That was then, and this is now, however, and there are many aspects of this whole issue that have yet to unravel. Getting folks to focus on this reality rather than just lay down in the road and let the gas companies do as they will without regard to the consequences to the landscape and communities of NEPA is the challenge before us.

Lame?

Perhaps Perseusman would be so kind as to post the link to the perfect gas lease?