To provide its readers with comprehensive information on gas exploration activity in Lycoming County, the Sun-Gazette next Sunday will begin publishing a list of gas leases registered at the county Courthouse, according to newspaper Publisher Bernard A. Oravec.
"The Sun-Gazette, as the only newspaper of record in Lycoming County, has an obligation to our readers to provide as much information as possible surrounding the development of the Marcellus Shale," Oravec said. "As publisher, I've been contacted many times by readers interested in finding out where land has been leased by oil and gas companies."
"As this newspaper is located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale boom, we're contacted not only by our local readers, but readers around the country interested in this type of information," he said.
The listings will include the date of the lease, the parcel owner and home address, the company leasing the land, the amount of acres leased, the parcel's location and the person leasing the land, which is usually the property owner, he said.
Readers have expressed interest in what gas companies are paying for the leases, but that information is unavailable, Oravec said.
Companies are under no legal obligation to reveal financial considerations, including royalty rates and lease payments, when registering leases at the county Register and Recorder's office, said Thomas Murphy, an educator with the Penn State Cooperative Extension.
"Typically, companies will file a memorandum of the lease," Murphy said. "It's a reduced version ... that does not contain the financial information as it pertains to the lease."
"It's for competitive reasons. A company that is leasing in an area with other
companies doesn't want all those companies to know what they are paying for those leases," he said.
The practice also prevents landowners from finding out how much neighbors have received for their leases, he said.
The listings will be published starting next Sunday and run in chronological order, starting at the beginning of 2000 and continuing until they are up to date. So far, the Sun-Gazette has identified more than 8,000 leases related to the gas industry.
This feature will be exclusive to the print edition.
According to Oravec, the newspaper also will return the real estate transactions to the Sunday newspaper. In the recent past, the transactions have been available only in the Sun-Gazette's monthly Real Estate Guide, he said.
"While (the transactions) will still be available in the Real Estate Guide, our readers have asked us to return them to the Sunday paper," he said.