CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Unsuspecting property owners around the
country are getting trampled in an old-fashioned land rush by
natural gas companies.
Stories of fast-talking industry representatives using scare
tactics to strong-arm people into signing lowball leases are
popping up in rural areas and suburbs from New York to West
Virginia to parts of Indiana and Texas. All sit atop largely
untapped natural gas deposits made suddenly valuable by soaring
prices and improved drilling techniques.
A West Virginia farmer and convenience store owner named Brad
Castle said he and and his father thought they were getting a
windfall when they signed a $5-an-acre lease and promise of 12.5
percent royalties for the gas rights to their 800 acres. His
feelings of trust evaporated when rival companies started offering
$350 an acre and royalties as high as 15 percent.
Gas companies such as Chesapeake Energy make no bones about
their desire to lock up leasing rights. The Oklahoma City-based
natural gas giant calls its aggressive lease acquisition program
the "land grab" in its latest annual report to the Securities and
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)