People Push Lawmakers For Royalty Fix

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WYSOX TOWNSHIP -- Some property owners who have leased land to the natural gas companies  have noticed recently that extra money is being taken from their royalty checks.

They looked for answers Wednesday morning from the state lawmaker who was with them for breakfast.

Farmers from Bradford and Sullivan Counties came to talk agriculture, have a little breakfast, and hear firsthand from their state senator about what's being done about an issue that involves tens of millions of dollars.

Republican Gene Yaw hosted the breakfast meeting at the Wysox Volunteer Fire Company.

Some farmers near there have leases with natural gas companies and have been receiving less money in their royalty checks lately.

"We get 1/8 royalty. This is what Pennsylvania law is supposed to be," said Jim Gore of Luthers Mills. "(We're getting) probably 25 percent less."

Gore is among those lease holders getting less money, due to a court ruling that says current state law does not define the word royalty.

Kevin Stephani of Columbia Crossroads says Talisman Energy has told him it will likely take a portion of his royalties to pay for so-called "post production" costs.

"This stinks, it's got bad things written all over it, needs to be addressed and taken care of now."

But Senator Yaw, who used to practice law, says it would be unconstitutional to change the contracts between landowners and gas companies.

"I just don't see that a one size fits all is going to solve the problems, not when you have thousands of different contracts out there," said Sen. Gene Yaw, (R) 23rd District.

We wanted to ask Yaw whether it would be acceptable to amend the law defining oil and gas royalties. But the senator, as he has in the past, refused to comment further.

"You recorded it, right? I don't want to say anything else," said the senator.
"You can't explain anymore? I'm not a lawyer or legislator."
"No, I'm done. I'm not talking," said Senator Yaw.

Jim and Barb Warburton own a dairy farm in Sullivan County and believe that Senator Yaw is working for the people but, faced with losing royalty money that would have helped them retire, the Warburtons, like others, want something done.

"It's something we never planned on, and whatever we can get we'll be happy with, but I would like to be treated fairly," Jim Warburton said.

Senator Yaw said other state lawmakers may try to better define the word royalty in state law that, for now, allows gas companies to shave what amounts to millions of dollars off royalties.