Ohio Environmental Council, January 24, 2014
Columbus, OH – The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is praising State Representative Mark D. Okey (D-Carrollton) and echoing his call to action for state leaders to prevent exploitation of Ohio’s property owners and natural resources. Today, Rep. Okey called on Governor John Kasich and legislative leaders to act on his proposed legislation to protect Ohio’s landowners from predatory leasing practices by the oil and gas industry.
“The OEC stands side by side with Rep. Okey in urging the Kasich administration and Statehouse leaders to put an end to predatory leasing and to establish consumer rights for property owners who wish to lease their land for oil and gas production,” said Trent Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council. “Land owners need better protection from unscrupulous oil and gas ‘landmen.’ The law should assure arms-length dealings for Ohio’s gasland communities.”
The call for strengthened consumer rights comes just days after a recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled Chesapeake Energy’s attempts to renegotiate Ohio landowners’ leases in an attempt to help the cash-strapped company. The article cites that since 2008, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed across the country by landowners, who claim the company breached contracts.
Rep. Okey’s recently introduced “Truth in Leasing Act” (House Bill 493) would guarantee an honest leasing process by requiring “landmen” who secure leases on behalf of drillers to be subject to registration, licensing, and disclosure requirements, and establish consumer protection rights for property owners.
In February of this year, the state’s top lawyer, Attorney General Mike DeWine, urged, among other improvements in Ohio law, that his office or another state agency be empowered to help landowners with complaints about lease agreements for drilling.
“Arms-length lease negotiations will not only help protect landowners’ pocketbooks, but also protect the localized environment,” Dougherty added. “Absent fully protective regulations, effective lease negotiations can secure better protections for landowners’ safety and protection of their air, land, and water resources.
“From negotiating longer setbacks, to requiring post-drilling testing of water wells, to dictating how the land is reclaimed, the lease can be a powerful tool for a landowner to protect his or her property from environmental risks. However, that is only the case if the landowner is on equal footing with the operator and the ‘landmen’ are held accountable,” said Dougherty.
OEC fully supports and endorses HB493. The OEC advocated for many of the bill’s provisions during the debate over the Governor’s Energy Bill (SB315).
“Gov. Kasich has renewed his push to make the 0il and gas industry pay its fair share in taxes. The industry’s henchmen also should be ‘taxed’ with mandatory licensing, registration, and financial disclosure to protect landowners from the unscrupulous practices of predatory ‘landmen.’”