Landowners concerned over unwanted drilling on their properties

By Kelly McCarthy

March 7, 2013 Updated Mar 7, 2013 at 10:18 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A group of Southern Tier landowners are worried if hydraulic fracturing is approved for New York, their land would be drilled without their permission.

Part of the current Environmental Conservation Law for oil and gas drilling in New York allows for something called compulsory integration.

It's causing concerns with some landowners in the Southern Tier, who came together Thursday in Binghamton.

For them, compulsory integration comes into play when drilling companies sign leases with at least 60 percent of landowners within a spacing unit of one square mile.

"We decided not to lease because we wanted to protect our land, protect our water, and with compulsory integration they're taking everything they want," said Kris VanSlyke of Sanford.

By law, gas companies can still drill through the rest of the properties with no lease.

"With respect to people who haven't leased, and with respect to fracking and shale gas, this is unconstitutional no matter what," said Senior Attorney David Slottje, of the Community Environmental Defense Council.

An oil and gas attorney says the statute in the Environmental Conservation Law is meant to protect landowners from gas companies.

If a property owner has not signed a lease, the gas company cannot operate on top of their land and they must pay for any resources they capture underground.

"In Pennsylvania, they don't have this rule, that means they can drill around you with directional drilling and you have all the burden of the industry and no benefit," said Scott Kurkoski of Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP. "New York guarantees you have a benefit. That no one can steal your gas by the law of capture without paying you."

Kurkoski says there is no discussion to change the compulsory integration law if New York allows natural gas drilling permits for hydraulic fracturing.