Casey focuses his attention on the old English law of "rule of capture," still in effect in West Virginia when it comes to gas drilling, and how "forced pooling" and the use of the relatively new process of horizontal drilling will allow gas to be drilled more efficiently, at less cost to the environment.
Here's how he concludes his piece:
"Natural gas production has been profitable for thousands of small and
large West Virginia gas royalty owners. It can be much better if the rule of
capture is changed for horizontal wells. With the exact same rights they have
now, gas owners would enjoy more efficient production and surface owners less
disruption. West Virginia needs a modern way to encourage horizontal drilling
for the benefit of all: gas owners, surface owners and the state.
Legislation is expected during the 2011 Legislature to allow pooling for
horizontal wells. Pooling would replace the rule of capture. Gas owners who are
at risk of having their gas drained by a horizontal gas well would be notified
that such a well is planned and could elect to participate in the royalties or
to own a share of the well. With a pooling law no longer will gas owners find
their gas has been drained without compensation.
Our lawmakers created pooling laws in 1994 for extremely deep vertical gas
wells. These deep well laws eliminated the rule of capture and established
pooling rights so all adjacent property owners would be paid for their share of
the gas drained from their property.
The 1994 rules were a huge step in the right direction. Now horizontal
wells are being drilled, and just as our lawmakers in 1994 understood the rule
of capture was obsolete for deep wells, they should consider whether the rule is
obsolete for horizontal wells.
Now is the time for the Legislature to adopted new laws eliminating the
rule of capture and compelling pooling for the new technology of horizontal
Casey's opinion on forced pooling is shared by the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization, which has some excellent material on its website about the issues in Marcellus Shale drilling. Here's a link to their page on horizontal drilling, where you can connect to their other resources: