The controversial “co-tenancy bill” quickly moved in and out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday evening.
House Bill 4268, which would allow drilling on land if the majority — or 75 percent — of owners gave consent, passed the committee with a voice vote and moves to the Senate floor.
The only major scrutiny came from Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, who introduced an amendment that would include a Pugh clause for horizontal drilling on minority owners’ land.
A Pugh clause is normally used in negotiation and added to a lease to limit the lessee from holding only parts of the land to develop later.
“What’s clear is if we pass this the people ... are stuck,” he said. The amendment, he said, “will not change the substance of the bill whatsoever.”
The amendment was rejected with a voice vote.
“We could sit here all night and add this and that,” said Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker.
But it didn’t make sense to add that amendment, said Tom Huber, president of the West Virginia Royalty Owner’s Association. Drilling on only part of the land is far less common now that it’s more expensive to drill, he said.
“He’s kind of making overblown concerns. What he’s saying the industry would do would cost the industry more money than the efficiencies they gain by fully developing units,” he said, referring to Romano. “We’re getting close, but we still have the floor. So first things first.”
The already controversial bill made news Monday when Gov. Jim Justice urged Senators to kill it. He moved back on that statement Monday evening, just before the Judiciary Committee debated it.