In Ohio, mandatory pooling laws are being abused heavily by drillers. Mandatory pooling laws give the drillers the power to override any landowners who deny access to their property if the landowner’s neighbors agree to the drilling. The landowner who has been overridden still receives payment for the oil taken from his land, but for US Army Veteran Ed Hashbarger, that isn’t the point. Hashbarger contends that the practice violates his constitutional rights, and more importantly to him, his belief in safeguarding the environment.
Supporters of the law contend that its purpose is to prevent what they refer to as “wasteful over-drilling”, basically drilling the same well over and over again, something they liken to sticking multiple straws in the same Coke bottle. This decreases the pressure and reduces the amount someone would get out of a well, while increasing the cost of drilling said well. The laughable thing about this law is that is actually referred to as a “conservation statute”, when it is in fact being used as the exact opposite.
There is a council in place that reviews the mandatory pooling requests, called the Technical Advisory Council, but local citizens say that the council is broken and dominated by oil industry insiders. In fact, six out of the eight council members are there representing oil and gas producers, while there is only one council member each for landowners’ royalties and the public at large. Of the 56 requests since 2009, 43 have been approved, an alarming majority, particularly if a number of cases are similar to that of Mr. Hashbarger. There is another supposed safeguard in the system. After the council makes its decision, the head of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ mineral division can deny any judgement it makes, but has only done so twice.
Thankfully, other states that are currently under pressure to enact similar legislation are resisting. While Pennsylvania has been under serious pressure after the explosion of activity around the Marcellus Shale, Governor Tom Corbett, who is often seen as an oil and gas industry stalwart, opposes mandatory pooling, and has likened it to “private eminent domain.”
The combination of a badly written law and no attempts to change it has resulted in a rather despicable situation in Ohio, where landowners can no longer make decisions about the environmental impact they want taken place on their properties. The money they receive as compensation is irrelevant if they are morally against the concept, an idea that is hard to grasp for oil and gas drillers.