Commissioners hear concern about gas lease royalty deductions

WELLSBORO – Tioga County resident Leon Kocher, of Covington Township, voiced his concern during a Tioga County Commissioner’s meeting Tuesday about the practice of the natural gas drilling industry of deducting so called “production costs” from the amount paid to landowners in royalty payments.

Kocher pointed out House Bill 1684, authored by state Rep. Matthew E. Baker, R-Wellsboro, that soon could be voted on, would protect landowners who have leased with natural gas drillers from having to take less money because of the practice.

According to Kocher, a second bill, House Bill 1650, introduced by state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, in the southwestern part of the state, only protects landowners who sign leases after the bill becomes law, not the thousands who already have signed leases.

“House Bill 1650, submitted the same day and sponsored by White, says, and you have to go to the last page to find it, “the addition of this law shall not apply to a lease agreement entered into prior to the effective date of this section.”

“All existing leases won’t get a break if his law is put through. We need to make sure Baker’s bill gets put through and White should not run for office anymore,” Kocher said.

Kocher asked the commissioners to send out a memorandum to the state legislature in support of HB 1684, Baker’s bill.

“Baker did a good job, his bill prevents any deductions coming off royalty checks and applies to a list that includes everything that can’t be deducted. It is actually an amendment to the Guaranteed Mineral Rights law,” he added.

Such a memorandum, Kocher said, would be “very instrumental helping the people of this county so the gas companies wouldn’t be taking out these deductions.”

Chairman Mark Hamilton said they would “consider it.”

In other business, the commissioners:

Approved a state Department of Transportation letter of amendment that would allow the county to receive reimbursement for $11,000 in additional costs incurred in the design of the Knox Bridge, Deerfield Township, due to changes in the way the state calculates wings and abutments, according to chief clerk Derek Williams.

Approved a contract with Forward Thinking Systems Inc. for a GPS unit in the assessment office vehicle, for three years at a cost of $574 in the first year, and $444 in the second and third years, to be paid for with Act 13 funding.

Approved an amendment to the agreement with EADS Architects for a food services building addition at the county prison, to provide design and contract document services for the proposed dock addition and site improvements for $5,000.

Approved the use of borough Green by American Legion Post 84 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4907 to hold a Veterans Day observance from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 11.

Reappointed Sam Wilson and Tom Robbins for three-year terms on the Farmland Preservation Board.

As the Salary Board, approved the creation of two clerk typist positions, one in the fiscal office and one in the family services office of the Department of Human Services, at an hourly rate of $10.36, with benefits.