Monday, June 18, 2012

New York landowners win right to negotiate pre-fracking oil and gas leases with Chesapeake Energy

More than 4,400 landowners in New York have won the right to seek more favorable oil and natural gas leases, after the state attorney general and a subsidiary of Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. came to terms last week.

"The leases, which were signed in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, were prior to the proliferation of high-volume hydrofracking, a much-debated gas-drilling process that made formations such as the Marcellus Shale profitable. As such, the terms of the contracts are generally well under current market value," reports Jon Campbell of the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester.

“Make no mistake about it," said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, "this agreement will provide a safety net for thousands of landowners by allowing them the opportunity to negotiate fairer lease terms, both financial and environmental, regardless of their existing contracts. For landowners across the state, this deal literally will provide a new lease on life.”

"The leases had been subject to a force majeure claim from Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, which had tried to extend their terms amid an ongoing environmental review of natural-gas development in New York," notes Jay F. Marks of The Oklahoman. "Such claims typically involve uncontrollable circumstances such as natural disasters."

The agreement covers leases that have expired or would have expired before Dec. 31, 2013. Landowners will be able to negotiate leases with other energy companies, but Chesapeake retains the right to match those terms. Chesapeake admitted no wrongdoing, but the company will pay $250,000 to reimburse the state for its investigation of landowners' complaints. (Read more.)

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