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Forced Pooling Bill Introduced in West Virginia

As reported by the Wheeling Intelligencer, for the fifth year out of the last six, pooling legislation has been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates (HB 4426). A similar measure failed to pass in 2015 after a 49-49 vote on the final day of the legislative session. HB 4426 allows drillers who own or have leased 80 percent of the acreage in a proposed unit to unitize the remaining acreage if mineral owners cannot be located or refuse to sign leases. However, unlike prior versions, the current bill would forbid companies from deducting post-production expenses from royalty checks payable to such mineral owners. Opponents of “lease integration,” as it has been called in West Virginia, maintain that drillers should not be allowed to incorporate unleased oil and gas interests into planned well units because such incorporation co-opts landowners’ rights to execute oil and gas leases affecting their separate property.  HB 4426 is currently under consideration by the West Virginia House Energy Committee.