Weighing the rights of individuals against the rights of a community or group of individuals is a balancing act that that has a long history in this country. For many years, Ohio has provided two means by which landowners can be forced to include their mineral rights in the development of oil and gas resources. One is by forced pooling (ORC Section 1509.27). The other is forced unitization (ORC Section 1509.28).
When the average Ohio well was located on a unit of 40 or fewer acres there was little need to force a neighbor to join the unit. The onset of horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing in Ohio’s Utica/Point Pleasant shale has radically changed the dynamics. Units of 600 plus acres are more efficient than smaller units. As development has moved into areas with smaller tracts, the developer needs a lease from a larger number of land owners.
What should happen if the majority of the land owners in a potential unit want a lease, and the life changing income that may come with it, while some of their neighbors are strongly against “fracking” or just simply are not interested in leasing their mineral rights?
In the next few weeks I will discuss how the State of Ohio is attempting to deal with the issues, the most recent rules for forced unitization and the impact on property owners.