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West Virginia Lawsuit Could Impact Fracking Statewide

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A West Virginia man filed a lawsuit against two gas companies claiming they do not have the right to use the surface of his land to sink wells used to drain gas from neighboring properties, reported the Republic. Richard Cain recently sued Exxon Mobil and Waco Oil and Gas in Marion County Circuit Court. The outcome of the suit could affect how gas companies perform hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale area within the state.

In 1989, Cain purchased 138 acres but did not obtain the mineral rights since they were sold more than a century earlier, says the complaint. The plaintiff anticipated leaving the property to his children but is now “heartsick” that the gas companies intend to drill on 36 of the 105 acres he owns.

Cain admits the companies own the mineral rights to his land and can therefore obtain gas; however, the complaint states the amount of gas the companies will obtain is too low to justify disrupting the surface of his land.

Cain also contends the ownership of mineral rights does not include the right to drill multiple wells. The complaint states Exxon is approved for only one 12-acre well pad and from there can drill up to six horizontal wells.

According to Cain, the company already intends to drill two additional well pads on his land, which is being done without his permission and will disrupt 40 percent of the surface.

A current law mandates that gas companies compensate surface owners for lost income, expenses and damages but Cain argues the formula is insufficient. He believes the value should reflect what the well is worth to the buyer rather than the seller, which is roughly $25,000 per well, reported the Republic.

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