Forced Pooling

Gas and oil companies have wanted a forced pooling law in West Virginia for years. Proposals to date – including one introduced just a few days ago in the Legislature – fall short of what is acceptable to many Mountain State residents.

Many parcels of mineral rights have multiple owners, sometimes in the dozens or even hundreds. That means that to drill a well into that tract, companies must obtain leases from all the owners.

When even a few object, perhaps demanding compensation higher than the companies are willing to pay, drillers are stymied. Forced pooling would set up a mechanism whereby such owners could, in effect, be forced to allow drilling in exchange for compensation rates set by state law.

That idea – of forcing someone to sell something for a price lower than he may be willing to accept -rubs many West Virginians the wrong way.

Even one of the co-sponsors of the bill, state Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, has withdrawn his support after hearing from constituents.

Also annoying some observers was the strategy of waiting until the legislative session was more than halfway over before introducing the bill. That method, meant to limit time the public has to consider controversial proposals, suggests proponents are worried they cannot support their arguments.

Legislators should reject the forced pooling bill again this year.