Landowners rally for royalties from gas companies

By Jillian Marshall

February 14, 2014 Updated Feb 14, 2014 at 7:23 PM EDT

Towanda, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Some Pennsylvania landowners claim they are not reaping the benefits promised from gas companies. On Friday, people stood in support of a bill that will guarantee gas lease royalties to Pennsylvania landowners.

"First of all it's a lie, they sat at your kitchen table and they lied, they literally lied to you," said David Moon, of New Albany, PA.

More than 100 people stood in front of the Bradford County Courthouse to show their support for House Bill 1684, which would force gas companies to share a minimum of 12.5 percent, or one eighth, of their royalties with landowners.

When hydraulic fracturing came into Pennsylvania more than four years ago, gas companies promised landowners 12.5 percent of their revenue from natural gas drilling on the landowner's property.

In 2010, the state overturned that minimum in the Kilmer vs., Elexco court case.

Now, several gas companies, including Chesapeake Energy, are under fire from residents and lawmakers because they are reducing landowners’ royalty checks, some down to nothing at all.

"This last year our deductions were $36,000 plus, and next year with the additional properties and the new wells coming on, it'll be over $70,000," Moon said.

"Just recently we've noticed one particular lease has had a big increase, they're taking about, it's gone up to about 60 percent of our royalties are taking out," said East Smithfield, PA landowner Rex Kingsley.

There are 35,000 pieces of land where fracking occurs in Bradford County. Of that, about 14,000 are one acre or less.

Bradford County Commissioners said this is not just taking money from landowners, its taking money away from the county, state and country.

A letter from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was read at the rally. It said that he's frustrated with senior leadership at Chesapeake Energy, and he'll personally help advance this piece of legislation to help landowners get their royalty rights.

"I cannot stand a liar, and they sit and they're lying and they're evil. And the state of Pennsylvania, I'm very glad to hear that even up to the Gov. Is taking action here," Moon said.

Pennsylvania State Representative Tina Pickett was also at the rally. She said she hopes to get the bill on the house floor in March.

Action News reached out to Chesapeake Energy for a comment, but has yet to receive a response.