Battery of bills would protect gas royalty owners

In a perfect Pennsylvania world, the natural gas drilling in the state leads to a vibrant economy, quality employment, business and industry success, a revenue stream for leasing property owners and a protected environment.

That tricky equation requires constant refinement.

The latest tweaks involve protection of royalty conditions for property owners.

Three bills expanding the rights of landowners who lease to natural gas companies passed the state Senate last week. According to state Sen. Gene Yaw, a Loyalsock Republican, the bills addressed concerns brought to him by constituents.

The first bill allows royalty owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments.

The second bill prohibits gas companies from retaliating against any royalty owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property if a royalty owner questions the accuracy of royalty payments.

The third bill requires companies to record a surrender document where an oil and gas well is located within 30 days upon expiration, termination or forfeiture of an oil and gas lease. The document will release the gas company’s interests in the well.

Beyond these three property owner protections, state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican, is working on a bill that clarifies how natural gas royalty payments to Pennsylvania landowners are calculated.

The idea is to guarantee the minimum 12.5-percent royalty payment and assure that companies are not dipping into the percentage to pay for post-production costs.

All of this will help protect the rights of our area’s landowners who have made good-faith agreements with gas companies, most of which have gone smoothly.

The idea is to make sure all of them play out as intended.