Three cheers to court

Three cheers for the Pennsylvania Superior Court and their recent ruling on subsurface trespass.

As the owner of 20 acres of unleased land in Lycoming County, landmen have told me, “You better sign the lease because we’ll take your gas anyways.” Until last week, that declaration was true. A lower court previously affirmed that there was no trespass because of the “rule of capture” which proclaims that the first person to capture a natural resource owns that resource.

On April 2nd, the Superior Court negated the rule of capture for hydraulic fracturing, stating that, “… natural gas, when trapped in a shale formation, does not merely ‘escape’ to adjoining land absent the application of an external force.”

This is encouraging news for landowners like me and for thousands of citizens who believe developing a long-term, sustainable economy for our state’s future has nothing to do with the boom/bust cycle of fossil fuels. Rather, PA’s best and most valuable opportunity lies in marketing the PA Wilds as a top tourist destination for the entire NE region of the US. If we allow the industrialization of our beautiful forests, that opportunity will be lost. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2015, PA realized $4.4 billion tax in revenues from the tourist industry, 22 times the gas industry’s average annual impact fees of $200 million.

In spite of government subsidies for fossil fuels and current administration push-backs, investment in a renewable energy future is growing rapidly in other states and around the world. Will Pennsylvania wake up before it’s too late? Time will tell. For now, I am pleased the court has recognized my right to both the surface and sub surface of my property. The gas under my land is staying put. I’m glad I ignored the warnings and never signed that gas lease.

Barb Jarmoska


Submitted by Virtual Newsroom