Community Blocks Chesapeake Energy From Removing Gas

WILMOT TOWNSHIP  -- A community in Bradford County is taking a stand against the country’s second largest natural gas producer.

On Tuesday night, the Wilmot Township supervisors voted to stop letting Chesapeake Energy remove gas from wells the company has drilled there in an effort to get gas leaseholders their full gas royalties.

Last December, Chesapeake Energy was slapped with a lawsuit from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office for allegedly using bait-and-switch methods with those who signed gas leases with the company.

Several leaseholders from Bradford County said the company was bilking them out of their 12 ½ percent royalties by charging fees that were never in the contract.

David Parsons of Wilmot Township says Chesapeake has even begun telling people they owed the company money.

“Started out at 12 ½ percent and is down to negative where they're actually owning the company money,” said Parsons.

Now his community near Wyalusing is taking a stand.

The Wilmot Township supervisors approved a resolution at a meeting Tuesday night that prohibits Chesapeake from removing any more gas from its wells until the lease owners are paid their full royalties.

“Now therefore, be it resolved that we demand production be discontinued from wells where landowners are having their royalty checks diminished to nothing or nearly nothing,” read Jane Dietz, the township secretary.

“All we want to do is have the leases follow through like they written,” said Frank Massersmith, the chairman of the supervisors. “Have the royalties paid at 12 ½ percent like it says in the lease, no deductions; a lot of us have simple leases.”

While it is now an ordinance, township officials say this is more of a symbolic gesture to send a message to state lawmakers to take action.

“We elect the people in Harrisburg to be our voice and we believe in them and we don't question them and we're asking them to please stand up for us,” said Mark Dietz, the vice chair of the supervisors.

There is also a push in Harrisburg for new legislation that would call for a 12 ½ percent “minimum royalty” to be guaranteed by the state in lease agreements.

“It will reinstate what was promised at every kitchen table in our county, 12 ½ percent in guarantee by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the gas company promised, Commonwealth guaranteed it,” said Bradford County Commissioner Doug McClinko (R).

The Bradford County commissioners plan to host a rally next week to show support of that proposed legislation. The rally is expected to be held on September 14 at 6 p.m. at Towanda Area High School.

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