Letter: Lawmakers need to hear landowners’ side on pipelines

Lawmakers need to hear landowners’ side

Editor:

I am writing in response to the Dec. 6 commentary by Anne Blankenship “Gas and oil industry makes state impact.”

Most people appreciate the economic impact the industry contributes to West Virginia along with the jobs provided with good salaries. According to Ms. Blankenship, the gas and oil companies operate more than 20,000 miles of pipeline across the state, yet it is critical that more pipelines are constructed. She also speaks about needing more resources to fully develop our minerals along with pro-development land policies. Ms. Blankenship goes on to state the West Virginia Gas and Oil Association will work with all stakeholders to make sure this is done in a responsible fashion.

I read that to say they want more laws that benefit the industry to the detriment of small landowners, because the industry’s attitude is these mineral resources are theirs to get any way they can, at the lowest cost, and no matter what the property owner may think or how they may suffer.

The industry does not have a great reputation of working with landowners in a respectful, fair and equitable manner. I have had two very bad experiences with two different companies here. The agreements they present are drawn up by their attorneys to benefit them. For a person lacking knowledge of legal agreements, gas and oil, pipelines, etc., and being pressed to sign quickly, it’s overwhelming (and usually the landowner gets the short end of the stick).

I had a company rep sit in my home and be untruthful about some things associated with the property, a lease, and pipeline they wanted. Within a few days they were calling to get a signature on the agreement they had presented, and one of them even showed up at the house unannounced.

After returning from an out-of-town trip, I learned the company had gone ahead with their plans for the pipeline. Despite having no signed agreement or even being granted permission to be on the property, they bulldozed trees to make a roadway through the property and putting the pipeline in.

This company (and I am sure they are not alone) at least operates under the philosophy that it is a right to destroy property not belonging to them, cause damage to the only road used by the property owner, and then not want to fix things properly. In addition, the company denied many things, never once apologized for what they did, didn’t want to provide compensation, and only did once they were backed into a corner. I’m sure they felt it would be easier to ask forgiveness than to wait on the landowner sign their agreement.

I am sure many other landowners have had similar experiences. In my two experiences, a very quick deadline was issued by the companies to sign their agreements. The second company dictated to me what legal action they could proceed with to “take” the mineral rights legally under state law unless their agreement was signed pronto. The landowners’ hands are pretty much tied, and most don’t know what to do.

I have tried to present another view why we all should question whether the industry needs more laws to benefit companies, while landowners suffer the resulting consequences for years to come. The Legislature needs to hear the landowners’ side and not only the industry lobbyists. There is a saying: “Treat others like you would like to be treated.”

Steve Kerns

Elkview

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