Property owners faced with a decision about leasing the mineral rights beneath their land for Marcellus Shale gas drilling have a new tool to help them understand their options and make more informed choices.
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is a set of lease guidelines and principles that property owners can use with the help of an attorney to understand the environmental risks and rewards of mineral rights leasing. Homeowners, farm owners and private landowners throughout Western Pennsylvania now face decisions about the use of their land from drilling companies and many more will soon face similar challenges.
Developed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is intended as a helpful resource for Pennsylvania residents who are considering leasing their property for Marcellus Shale gas production, or who have decided to lease and are beginning the negotiating process. It identifies key environmental issues that can be addressed in a lease, summarizes the types of approaches that have been used to address these issues in other Marcellus Shale gas leases in Pennsylvania, and offers options for handling these issues in a more protective lease, using best management practices employed in oil and gas leasing both in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
The Lease Guide is also available online at www.pagreenlease.org, where individuals can weigh in with additional suggestions for protective lease provisions.
“The perfect Marcellus Shale gas lease doesn’t exist,” says John Walliser, vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “The drilling companies have standard lease agreements that they prefer to use, but those standard leases aren’t always designed to meet the specific interests of the property owner or to protect the unique features of the property. The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide provides a menu of approaches for the property owner to use with their attorney in crafting lease language for that best suits their own individual circumstances.“
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide was developed to help property owners navigate the complex and constantly-changing issues related to natural gas drilling and extraction. The scale of the Marcellus Shale play throughout Pennsylvania is vast and the race among drillers to secure mineral rights in hundreds of communities is already going strong. But in many cases, property owners lack the experience, resources or expertise to engage gas companies in negotiations that will ultimately lead to mutually beneficial agreements.
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is not meant to replace the expertise of qualified professionals, but simply to help citizens and their lawyers alike understand the various environmental issues associated with a new industry and its practices in their negotiations with gas industry representatives pursuing the mineral rights. Users should still do their own research, talk to other property owners who have had similar experience, and retain the services of an oil and gas attorney before signing any documents related to the mineral rights associated with their property.
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide is publicly available online free of charge and is based on feedback from landowners and other conservation interests. “We created the Marcellus Shale Lease Guide to help landowners become better informed about the wide range of potential environmental and conservation issues associated with Marcellus Shale development” said PEC’s Walliser. “We intend to continually update the guide as new information or new management practices arise.”
The Marcellus Shale Lease Guide provides a wealth of useful information that property owners can use to do their own research, including other resources and research tools that are readily available online or in print. It also explains how Marcellus Shale gas well development is different from Pennsylvania’s existing laws and regulations governing oil and gas extraction. Additionally, it provides specific advice for landowners to incorporate into their lease agreements on such issues as farmland use, erosion control, emergency response plans, impacts to existing structures, fencing, noise control, pollution prevention, seismic testing, property access rights by gas company personnel, impact on wildlife and timber, and many other issues.