TOWANDA — A large crowd gathered outside the courthouse in Bradford County, mostly landowners who collect checks from natural gas drilling, rallying to end what they call some not-so-sweet deals.
“What we are talking about is they had the guarantee from the state of 12.5 percent when they signed their leases. They had the promise of the gas industry when they sat at those tables,” said Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko.
But many landowners said they aren’t getting that fair share.
Donald Mochrie of East Smithfield Township said gas companies have taken thousands for post-production costs from his royalty checks. Money he said he needs.
“$5,000, it could get my fiance the medication that she needs for her Lyme disease because CDC does not recognize, or her insurance does not recognize, Lyme disease as a disease,” said Mochrie.
Now this crowd is pushing for the passage of State House Bill 1684, a bill that would restore a 12.5 percent minimum royalty fee.
“I’m willing to go there and walk and talk to those people and twist their arms just like those people from the oil fields twist our arms,” said Mochrie.
Governor Corbett has now sent a message to Bradford County showing his support for the cause: “Today on Valentine’s Day, the sweetheart deal for those companies ends in Pennsylvania.”
With a pledge of support from the governor’s office, folks rallying at the Bradford County courthouse say they feel like they’re one step closer to getting House Bill 1684 passed, one step closer to their 12.5 percent.
“There are a lot of people that it means a lot to,” said Rex Kingsley of East Smithfield Township.
Kingsley says he too has had 20 percent to 60 percent of his royalty fees taken. He says it’s now time to give these gas companies a reality check of their own.
“Everybody’s fortunate and happy that they’ve come here and developed our natural gas but at the same time they’re not being fair,” said Kingsley.
The House committee in Harrisburg has a hearing on House Bill 1684 early next month.