The Twin Tiers Landowners Coalition, a group of more than 200 members with about 8,500 acres of "leasable" land between them, has set Oct. 22 as the bid deadline for a natural gas drilling lease sale, said coalition spokesperson Mike White.
White, a former dairy farmer who owns about 600 acres in New York State, said the group has about 100 members in Tioga County and is looking for more.
There is no charge for membership in the coalition, White said.
Instead, it is compensated 2 percent of the lease bonus by the winning gas company "when we have a successful bid out."
"That's in addition to what the landowner gets, not out of what the landowner gets," he said.
White said there are "several companies interested that will be getting our bid package and we hope to have a healthy competition," he said.
Membership in a landowners coalition, such as the TTLC, "allows the gas companies to compete instead of the land owner trying to do their best one on one."
The coalition formed about a year ago, White said, and even though "all the primaries" are from New York State, White said he lives close to Pennsylvania.
Drilling in the lucrative Marcellus Shale still is under scrutiny in New York and it's not yet ready, White said, but the coalition is ready when it finally is, he said.
Landowners who have not yet leased their mineral rights to gas drillers can join and those whose leases are about to expire also can join, he said.
"If they are already leased, there really isn't anything we can do to help them," White said. "But if their lease is about ready to run out and they don't expect to be drilled on or tied up, it is possible we can work with them and help them get a top lease," he added. "Or they can still join us, and when their lease runs out we will be putting together another group in about six to eight months."
White said membership in the coalition offers "two primary big advantages."
"One is the opportunity to group land with other land to make the whole package more attractive to drilling companies," he said.
"The other thing is we create our own landowner protective lease that doesn't prohibit the gas companies from doing what they have to do, but it doesn't allow them to walk all over the landowners with no regard," he said.
White said using two professional consultants, one an attorney, they "try to put together a lease that would be the kind that I would want for my land."
White said hearing about people being taken advantage of by gas drillers in the years just before the Marcellus Shale "gas rush" started happening was one of the "inspirations for us to do this."
The consultants assisting the coalition are Gregory H. Sovas, who was in charge of mining and reclamation in New York for 22 years and "has connections with the gas industry and speaks frequently at the oil and gas seminars and meetings," White said.
The other is Adam J. Schultz, a partner in the law firm of Gilberti Stinziano Heintz & Smith, White said.
"They are a very prestigious New York environmental law firm, and do a lot of permitting work, and are familiar with permitting for gas wells, individual land owners, etc.," he said.
White said drilling companies are offering between $2,000 and $5,200 per acre to landowners on an individual basis and royalties are running from 15 to 20 percent, and depending on how it is worded in the lease it could be before the company's costs are deducted, he added.
White said there are landowner members in the group who own from two acres on up to 600 acres. "Obviously the bigger packages are more attractive to the gas companies," he said.
White said that "almost all of our landowners have been approached by one or more gas companies to be leased so they are all desirable on some level or another."
With the acreage being leased on a daily basis, there soon won't be any left in Tioga County, White said.
"Once it is locked up and drilled it could be generations before it is released again," he said.
White said he is "cautiously optimistic" the time is right for the lease sale.